Mark Patterson (MP) speaks to Enda Craig, (EC) a member of the Loughs Agency Advisory Forum,via telephone about the dispute between the Irish and UK governments over the ownership of Lough Foyle and about the problems the dispute is causing. (begins time stamp ~ 21:31)
Ed Note: To hear the interview as you read please visit the good folks at Buncrana Together. They have the clip of the interview and have been following this story and others that affect Ireland’s beauty and ecology. Click here.
MP: Now – the border. All about the border. The hard border. The soft border. The border around the border for goodness sake. Anyway, customs. But among all those chats one issue hasn’t been spoken about very much because the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is not settled. I mean the marine border. The British government’s position remains that the whole of Lough Foyle is in the UK. The Irish say: No, that’s not the case. And that disputed border has led to a huge upsurge in oyster farming on the Donegal side of Lough Foyle. There are thirty thousand metal oyster trestles on the lough bed. There were two thousand in 2014. So it’s completely unregulated. Enda Craig lives in Donegal on the shores of Lough Foyle; he’s also a member of the Advisory Forum of the Loughs Agency. Enda, I bet you half of them listening to this wouldn’t have a clue about that.
EC: Say that again, Mark?
MP: I’m saying I’ll bet you most listeners wouldn’t have a clue about most of that.
EC: Well yeah, well that’s very truebut then in all fairness when you speak about the border you must also speak about the true owners of the seabed of Lough Foyle. And you know it’s taken a hundred years for this topic to reach centre stage and that’s been forced upon the various governments by Brexit. Because when the UK pull out of the EU they’re going to have to indicate where their border lies between the UK and the south of Ireland. And actually you know at that stage we know that Brokenshire, James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has already stated that as far as he’s concerned UK owns up to the high water mark on the Donegal side. And that’s going to be very interesting especially for us down here and for the oyster trestle fishermen farther up the lough.
MP: You wonder then how the authorities on this side of the border maybe have never taken action? ‘Cause they’re saying the minute you go to the end of your garden, Enda, you dip your toe into British waters.
EC: (laughs) Yeah, I’m going to have to take my passport with me shortly after Brexit if I go for a swim down at the bottom of my garden. But I mean that’s the reality of the situation. But I suppose, Mark, the big question is: What will be the response from the southern government when the UK claim to the high water mark on the Donegal side?
MP: Well how do you think that’ll pan out? I mean if it’s shuffled on like this since partition, Enda, who’s to say anything’ll change post-Brexit?
EC: Well yeah, a lot of things will have to change. There was a lady just recently speaking, a professor from Queen’s University Belfast, and she was laying it out – many, many,many things will have to be looked at and will have to be discussed when you have an international border – trade, fishing, the fishing industry down here. For instance, one particular issue that we’re very much involved in is the attempt by the Donegal County Council to put a sewage discharge pipe into the seabed of Lough Foyle down here at Carnagarve. And the thing about it is if it is found out in the very near future that the UK owns up to the high water mark then we will be looking at a situation where, as far as we’re concerned, the Donegal claim to the seabed is an illegal claim and they will have to take their pipe, take it and put it where it should have been put in the first place – and that’s north of Greencastle.
MP: You see? Well look, back to the oysters for a moment, Enda: This from the Loughs Agency, by the way, from their Director of Aquaculture: The farming of sea gigas – have I said that right?
EC: Sea gigas? Yeah…
MP: …that’s the Latin for them. On the trestles in Lough Foyle is currently unregulated. The Loughs Agency awaits agreement between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (in The South) and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office which relate to jurisdictional issues before legislation can be brought forward to regularise this activity. (I think they mean ‘regulate’.) Government departments and agencies have expressed concerns regarding the issues which may arise from unregulated development. These concerns have been put in part of discussions between the DFA&T and the British office. Tell me, Enda, what are your observations about the oyster culture there – the aquaculture?
EC: Well you know they, you know all these statements – you have the powers to look at them in some detail, Mark, well the Good Friday Agreement came into being in 1999 out of that came the Loughs Agency who were given the job of regulating all activities in relation to the Foyle and Carlingford – both loughs. And you know, you find out after the research that we carried out, which we claimed that the Crown Estate actually owns the seabed, some very enterprising fishermen, and you know fair play to them, they decided to chance around and put out a few trestles and see how they would get on. Now as it turns out they got on very well because the Loughs Agency weren’t able to do a damned thing about it. And you might ask: Why were they not able to do something about it? Because they, in reality, if they appeared on Lough Swilly or if they appeared over on Screagaí Bay Irish officialdom would be down on them like a tonne of bricks within the hour and yet here they are – growing exponentially by the week!
MP: And do you think that the oysters are being over-exposed?
EC: No. Well that might well be part of it, Mark, but it actually goes back to the fundamental question of the ownership of the lough. And in the – the Loughs Agency were given legislation by the government in 2007 which was supposed to be applicable to the aquaculture industry on Lough Foyle. But the Crown Estate wouldn’t accept it because it wasn’t written into the legislation that they (the Crown Estate) were the lawful, legal owner of the seabed of Lough Foyle. This is the fundamental question. And when they talk about governments trying to figure this out and figure that out you never hear the Crown Estate being mentioned. They are the elephant in the room. They are the guys that call the shots. And they, fundamentally, own the seabed because we have permission here, proof beyond all shadows of a doubt, that the Minister of the Marine in Dublin has been paying Crown rent to the Crown Estate for the use of Lough Foyle. Now, the fundamental question is: If you’re paying rent how can you claim ownership? You can’t do that!
MP: Well Enda, you and I will talk again. That was most enlightening and we appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Thank you for that.
EC: Okay, Mark.
MP: That’s Enda Craig there a man who’s passionate about these things -an Inishowen man. (ends time stamp ~ 28:09)
Niall Delaney (ND) has Dominic Óg McGlinchey (DM) with him in studio and speaks to him about his life and his family as the thirtieth anniversary of the murder of his mother, Mary, is 31 January 2017. May Mary rest in peace. (begins)
ND: Our next guest in studio is Dominic McGlinchey, Dominic Óg McGlinchey. And many of you out there will be familiar with the name Dominic McGlinchey – he was one of the most notorious Republicans during The Troubles. He was leader of the INLA, the Irish National Liberation Army, and dubbed in the media ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey. He once admitted involvement in thirty killings in Northern Ireland and famously said during an interview that he ‘liked to get in close’ when attacking his victims. And Dominic Óg witnessed the murder of his father before his very eyes in Drogheda back in 1994. He was age sixteen when his father was gunned down outside a telephone box. Not only that, he also witnessed the murder of his mother, Mary, at their home in Dundalk in 1987. And this week marks the thirtieth anniversary of that particular shooting. Now Dominic Óg was just nine years old and was being bathed by his mother when gunmen broke into their house and shot her dead. It was a time in Ireland’s history that most of us will never forget and for the younger generation perhaps a time which is completely unbelievable in every sense of the word when you consider the country of relative peace that we live in today. And Dominic, Good Morning to you! Welcome to the studio.
DM: Yeah, no worries, thanks very much.
ND: Tell us a bit about your earliest family memories. Your memories of growing up in what was a staunch Republican family.
DM: Well the first memories probably – I remember growing up – memories would be in Carlane which would be in Toomebridge which would be South Antrim and they would be of waking up in the caravan that was beside my grandfather’s house, my mother’s homestead. And it would have been the prison van would have been coming early on a Saturday morning to collect my mother and my brother and myself.
ND: What age would you have been back then?
DM: Oh! Young enough to be carried around to be honest. But I…
ND: And that’s yourearliest memory? Of prison vans showing up at your house?
DM: Yeah, well it would have been the PDF, would have been the local Prisoners’ Dependence Fund, and they would have funded the van that would have carried wives and children to a lot of the prisons around the country. And I remember one morning waking up and sometimes there wouldn’t’ve be room in the bus for everybody so I was left behind and my Uncle John picking me up and carrying me in where my grandmother was making sodas on the griddle. And I remember her picking me up and sat me on the counter where she would have made the sodas and put butter on them and fed me them and then lifted me and sat me onto the bed beside one of my uncles so that’s as far, that’d probably be as young a memory I can ever, ever remember of childhood.
ND: And your parents – I mean what is your memory of your parents from an early age – that was the background, too, that they were…
DM: …The first memory of my mother would be in the caravan which we lived in at the side of the home house and the first actual memory I can have of my father would be in Portlaoise where we were looking in a closed visit – the closed visit would have been the cage where you’d look through the cage and you’d’ve seen him at the other side of it. And there would have been a prison guard would have sat at the end of the prison box.
ND: And what was that like for you as a young child?
DM: I didn’t know any different so it was a normal experience as regards me because I had no understanding of any other life – only that life. Yeah, so that would be – I didn’t contemplate that there was any other type of life going on outside there other than the one that I was living.
ND: I’ll get back to that in a moment. Later this week, the thirty-first of January, is the thirtieth anniversary of your mother’s murder.
DM: That’s correct, yeah.
ND: And you were living in Dundalk at the time.
DM: That’s correct.
ND: You were what? Nine years old?
DM: I was, yeah I think I was eight coming nine then. Yeah, it’s quite a considerable time ago now like but the memories are still there. We lived in that housing estate – really, really good community – good people. It’ll live in my memory for as long as I live and it probably has exposed me to the media in maybe other ways that other people that maybe haven’t been exposed to were. The fact that I’m sitting talking to yourself now is probably based on being Dominic and Mary McGlinchey’s son.
ND: Is it difficult to talk about that? I mean you were only nine years old. It was very personal for you – you were only a child. You were being bathed at the time by your Mum. Isn’t that right?
DM: Yeah well I just actually got out of the bath and my brother was in the bath and it was then that we’d heard the bang at the back of the house. We had actually thought that Declan had fallen in the bath and it was at that stage where my mother had asked me: ‘What was that?’ and I said I think that Declan had fell in the bath and then two men come running up the stairs and shot my mother. So yeah, but you know you do learn to live with it and move on and I am the person I am today and I think I’m a better person than maybe some people give me credit for.
ND: But to witness something as horrific as that as a nine year old boy.
DM: Yeah. Well emotionally you carry it around with you all your life. I think ultimately it resulted in the death of my brother last year where he took a massive heart attack. I don’t believe that – I think what he witnessed on that night, which obviously he witnessed a lot more than I witnessed, we never ever, ever fully ever had the full conversation about what happened. We carried our own individual pain in our own way.
ND: But you think it contributed to your brother’s death of a heart attack?
DM: There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it contributed to the death of my brother.
ND: As you said, you didn’t know any different as the way you were brought up was what you were used to. But I mean if that wasn’t – I mean when were you – when did you become conscious of the fact that your parents were very well-known, not only nationally but internationally as well – always in the media, always being written about and talked about?
DM: Well probably when, maybe when we were in Shannon. We were living in Shannon. We were staying with a woman called Brigid Makowski and I think that was the first time that we ever experienced being wheeled out in front of the media as regards both our parents being on the run. The probably slight bit of isolation maybe from other children because we only found out later on in life that other children wouldn’t have been allowed to play with you for fear of a certain stigma that might have been put on them and things like that.
ND: But looking back now you understand that was the case, perhaps?
DM: Absolutely, yeah. Funnily enough, I was talking to a man in Shannon recently and he informed me that, I was at a christening, that when he was a young child he wasn’t allowed out to play whenever we were out playing so it was an interesting thing to see.
ND: Okay, well if that wasn’t bad enough back, what happened to you back in 1987, you were also present when your father, Dominic Sr., was shot dead in 1994.
DM: Yeah, I was indeed, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a strange time because I remember a few weeks before it all the talks was going on, the Hume-Adams talks, and we were going out of the house one morning and you could see the helicopters – they were flying down towards Dublin – it must have been a delegation or something going to Dublin and it was interesting times as well but ultimately my father lost his life that night and you know, the implications of that on me and my brother were massive. Luckily, the broad Republican family and our own family were there and supported us. There was always somebody there to help you if you needed help – to catch you.
ND: And just again, just people will be calculating on their own – you were only what? Sixteen-fifteen-sixteen?
DM: Sixteen years of age, yeah.
ND: But again, to be a sixteen year old boy to witness your own father being shot dead.
DM: Yeah, it’s an interesting one. I mean it’s how you’re conditioned and programmed – about the not trusting of the the state, not trusting uniforms. The first thing I done was that I emptied my father’s pockets – made sure any pieces or scraps of paper were taken out of his pockets.
ND: You were conditioned to do that, as you say?
DM: Naturally. Straight in.
ND: That was just after he was shot?
DM: As soon as the paramedic said to me: ‘I’m sorry, son, you father’s gone’ I started taking pieces of paper out his pockets – very, very aware that there seemed to be a complete absence of Gardaí on the night. They spotted us earlier on that night. We waved at them. Then, all of a sudden, they seemed to be gone – a window of opportunity for whatever amount of time it was it took the people to come in and kill him and leave again. No traceability on weapons or cars or anything like that – everything gone – vanished. But in saying that, like I’ll be honest with you, I’ve left that behind me. I don’t carry that. I don’t carry that around. I’ve left that behind me a long, long time ago.
ND: And people will be curious to know this: You know, the media depiction of your Dad was ‘Mad Dog’ McGlinchey and a man who was on the run. To quote you, what you said about your Dad, Dominic: My father was the most genuine, caring individual you ever came across.
DM: Well I’ll give it to you more clearer than that again: I believe a true revolutionary travels with love in his heart, you know? My whole life growing up and traveling, especially within my own area – being South Doire, Southwest Antrim and North Antrim – the amount of houses that I would have visited and frequented during the course of being involved in the Republican Movement and where I’d be met by people of a similar age as my father and older, that would have kept him and looked after him and fed him and watered him tell me that my father would have been staying and using their houses as safe houses where he’d have been the first up bathing the children, changing nappies, doing all of those things. He absolutely and utterly adored children. He adored being around children.
ND: So when you read about, and it’s still brought up – in the Vincent Browne interview with your Dad and when he said that he ‘likes to get in close’ when he’s…
DM: …Well, I could give you – Tom Barry…
ND: …attacking people – killing people, essentially. That’s not the person you remember or you knew?
DM: No, I don’t remember him in that way but likewise, where if I go to Tom Barry, you know one of the greatest Irish Republican revolutionaries in Corcaigh, and when they talked about taking on the British Army they talked about ‘getting in close’ – giving no quarter. You know, men like my father, like Francis Hughes, like people like Ian Milne and people like that there from South Doire, Eugene O’Neill and men of that calibre you know, they took the war to the British Army. They took it on. They faced them on. They gave no quarter and expected no quarter. So, but outside of being a soldier, which they were, they were also humans, human beings – they were brothers and uncles and they also had a life to live. They came from an area that there was work aplenty. They weren’t living in places like Doire City or Belfast. They took a decision to play their part to fight for people’s, other people’s rights, never mind fighting for their own, and most of them paid the ultimate price. But it’s not all of them have died by being shot. Some of them also have lived their whole life suffering in silence as a result of things that they were involved in.
ND: Tell us a bit about yourself, Dominic, Dominic Óg, as you’re known – are you politically involved or have been or…?
DM: From all of my life up until the last number of years I’ve been politically active. The very virtue that I carry my father’s name – it can be a poisoned chalice at times. It’s a name that I’m also very, very proud to carry. I have, as I said, I’ve been involved most of my life politically. What I’m focusing on now is my family and…
ND: …Yeah, and you have a young family and yourself…
DM: …and it’s very, very important for me to set my children free. To allow them to maybe make their own choices. Allow them to go to college if that’s what they wish to do.
ND: And what do you make of what’s happening in The North at the moment? Well as we know there’s Assembly elections on the way. The Assembly collapsed a couple of week – what do you make of what’s happening at the moment? Are you happy with the way the process has gone since the Good Friday Agreement?
DM: Well as an Irish Republican there’s no way that you can say that you’re happy with the way the process has gone. What we’ve seen now is the best part of twenty years of a political strategy being flogged to death. The institutions are a failure. Stormont is a failure – number one because it props up a sectarian state. The people that have flogged this process to death, ie Sinn Féin, have tried to make the institutions workable, like the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) before them, like the Nationalist Party before that but the reality of the matter is that you can’t force somebody to treat you as an equal. That person has to willingfully want to treat you as an equal.
ND: Okay. So do you see no hope when the elections are held? Do you see no hope that you know that Northern Ireland is going to be a better place for everybody, for every citizen? Do you think the structures, as it is at present – that they’re not working?
DM: The structures, as it is, are impossible to work…
ND: ..So what’s the answer, do you think? What’s the alternative?
DM: Well the answer is, to me, I see it is that is that the citizens need to be actively involved in the participation of what type of society it is that they want to live in and to do that you need to go, and you need to go and talk to them. You need to engage with them. You need to ask them what type of governance it is that they want. Twenty years ago the Unionists were saying that the IRA held a gun to their head but that’s no longer the case. People might well want to involve themselves in some sort of a civic forum. We need to get away from the trenches of the Orange and the Green. We need to look about, as I said, what sort of society it is that we want to live in. About truly cherishing all of the children of the island equally. But you or me – I can’t force you to like me. I can’t force you to treat me as an equal. You have to want to treat me as an equal. And so long as you know bigotism and fascism and these types of things are continuing to go on then it’s just par for course that you’re going to get more of the same.
ND: Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams – would you be a supporter of either or?
DM: Well it’s an interesting fact that you bring up both Martin and Gerry. I remember Martin carrying my father’s coffin. He had came down and on a very, very human level I would’ve, I would have – at one stage in my life I would have played a bit of come and go with Martin. I find him a very affable man. When my brother died Martin took time out to contact me, to sympathise with me as the result of my brother’s death. Whenever I found out that Martin was sick I contacted Martin. He knows I’m not a religious man but my son was singing in the choir in Tuam for Christmas and I told him I’d light at candle for him and I did that. I went and I lit the candle for him. He wished me Happy Christmas and to my wife and my boys. On a political level we’re always going to have differences but I don’t believe that because you have political differences that you shouldn’t use the value of being a decent human being. I don’t see any value going forward in people being constantly criticising of each other. I think that people should be talking, I think that people should be open, I think that now is the time to be talking and not be going back into the trenches.
ND: Next Tuesday, finally, Dominic, next Tuesday is the actual thirtieth anniversary of your Mum’s murder. How will you mark that?
DM: How will I mark it? It’s a funny one because most years as you approach it it feels like a train’s coming down the track and there’s no way of getting out of the way – and it knocks you for six for about five or six weeks. But I can honestly say that this year I’ve probably been more happier than I’ve been in the past thirty years and ultimately it’s that because I don’t carry any bitterness or hatred against anybody. There’s not one person on this island that I have any hatred for.
ND: Not even those who were responsible for murdering your mother in front of you or your father in front of you?
DM: Absolutely none. Absolutely no hatred. There’s not one person on this island that I would not talk to. And there’s not one person on this island that anybody would stop me from talking to – there never ever is, ever ever have there – spent long enough walking around with a chip on my shoulder and hatred burning inside me and I can honestly say that sometimes I don’t even recognise the person that I am today. (ends)
Martin Galvin (MG) speaks to former Republican prisoner now author and journalist, Anthony McIntyre, (AM) via telephone from Ireland who delivers his comments on Sinn Féin collapsing the power-sharing government, its new party leader and the comments made by Gerry Kelly concerning the informing on and the prosecution of Irish Republicans. (begins time stamp ~43:01)
MG: And we have on the line professor, well Doctor excuse me, Anthony McIntyre, who’s the author of some of the great books, one of the great books, Good Friday: The Death of Irish Republicanism, manages The Pensive Quill blog which is a tremendous resource if you want to get a wide range of Republican thought, Irish Republican thought, that’s the place to go – that blog. And this week he was the author of one piece for the Belfast Telegraph and we had booked him to do an interview today and before we could interview him we find that we have another piece in the Belfast Telegraph dealing with Sinn Féin that we have to interview him about. Anthony, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.
AM: Hello, John.
MG: This is Martin.
AM: Oh, Martin. How are you? Sorry.
MG: There you go – all of us WBAI Radio Free Éireann personnel sound alike. Okay. Alright Anthony, the first piece that you did, you did a piece earlier on in the week, about Sinn Féin bringing down Stormont by Martin McGuinness resigning, the party refusing to appoint a substitute as Deputy First Minister and that meant that a new election would have to be called. What is the significance of Sinn Féin doing that, withdrawing from Stormont? How did that come about?
AM: Well it came about over the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) scandal with the – there’s a lot of allegations going around that the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) under Arlene Foster were squandering massive amounts of public money and that many DUP members were benefiting, essentially, from a scam and Sinn Féin had pushed for some sort of resolution of the matter by asking for Arlene Foster to stand aside similar to Peter Robinson having to do the same as First Minister for a six week period when there was a scandal surrounding him – he had come back in. Arlene Foster refused to do it and Sinn Féin upended the Executive but when they did they said that for ten years, which they hadn’t told people before, they had been insulted and treated with arrogance by the DUP, which was hardly a ringing endorsement for ever having gone into that arrangement in the first place. But the upshot is that we now have an election looming that will take place in The North in early March and it will be interesting to see what the outcome of that is because Michelle O’Neill, the new leader of Sinn Féin, has a lot of heavy lifting to do and it just might not be easy for her. She really has to improve the Sinn Féin vote which is already in decline in areas like West Belfast where they lost a seat in the Assembly elections to People Before Profit and the DUP will have to concede some ground to the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice) or the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) for the Sinn Féin move to have been successful. But strangely enough Adams, as quoted on the Slugger O’Toole website by Mick Fealty, and Mick Fealty has said that Adams has now acknowledged that the whole issue of the scandal has been handled adequately which sort of makes you wonder why the whole institutions were ever brought down or what Sinn Féin are thinking at the moment.
MG: Well Anthony, in your article for the Belfast Telegraph during the week you said that Michelle O’Neill was part of an Assembly team that has been accused of ‘roll over Republicanism’ and that it came to – Martin McGuinness came to – ‘personify an Assembly team malaise which saw it swallow ignominy after insult which, up until it collapsed the power-splitting Executive, responded to DUP slap downs as if they were pats on the back’. And you credited the Republican grassroots with pushing them to withdraw. Could you explain what you meant by that in that paragraph?
AM: Well what I meant was that, in my own view, is that the Sinn Féin leadership instinct was to stay in and this is what the DUP were calculating, that there were no circumstances under which the Sinn Féin leadership, who were part of a cosy arrangement in Stormont – perks, power, prestige, wealth – that they were ever going to come out of Stormont or pull out of the institutions. But over the course of years they were insulted, the DUP simply were not – I mean the way the DUP were treating them, even in relation to the Irish, the funding for the Irish language of deprived areas – of school children in deprived areas – where they denied a grant and later rescinded that decision to deny it but initially I mean the DUP were just treating them with utter contempt and basically Sinn Féin, in the eyes of the DUP, were like a trade union. As Tommy McKearney often says, the worst thing that you could be, as a trade union, is a trade union that’s afraid of going on strike and the DUP were treating Sinn Féin as they would a trade union that was afraid to go on strike. And it seems now, much to my surprise, that the grassroots did make a challenge, were very, very unhappy with the leadership’s position and they had some sort of rebellion – strange that they would rebel over the internal workings of basically an internal solution – but that’s what they did and I feel that it was what we may term the ‘sectarian impulse’, the anti-DUP impulse within Sinn Féin, trumped the careerist cartel that has been sitting up in Stormont milking the gravy train for a decade.
MG: Alright. We’re talking with Anthony McIntyre, former prisoner, Irish Republican Army prisoner, author, runs a blog, The Pensive Quill. Anthony, one of the things that you commented about was the significance of the change from former Republican prisoners, with emphasis in your case on the prisoners, from former Republican prisoners, to somebody who was seventeen at the time of the first ceasefire, Michelle O’Neill, had no Irish Republican Army background or credentials other than being related, you know – possibly to relatives. What is the significance of that in terms of Sinn Féin’s development?
AM: Well in, certainly in the public mind Michelle O’Neill is viewed as one of the New Age Sinn Féiners – someone who would not be handicapped by the military baggage that, for example, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would carry. And I feel that in this move Sinn Féin are sending out a message that with the withdrawal of Martin McGuinness and the refusal to actually hand over to many, many – any one of many former IRA prisoners, Pat Sheehan, Ian Milne, Gerry Kelly, Conor Murphy – all those people and more could have been appointed leader of the party but in effect they decided to bypass the IRA past and go for a clean or new pair of hands and this was more or less saying that there’s an attempt to, a serious attempt, being made now to civilianise the party, to move power or at least leadership from the hands of the martial politicians to the civilian politicians. And it’s a sign of Sinn Féin’s journey to the realm of constitutionalism which they have been on for quite a while but I mean they’re basically doing what so many before them have done like Fianna Fáil, the Workers’ Party – all these people have ended up, more or less, doing the same thing.
MG: Alright Anthony, we want to play a clip from one of the people that you just mentioned, Gerry Kelly. This was a clip of something that he said on The View. I was called by Gerry McGeough who was shocked by it and said that there were a number of people shocked. We’re just going to play this clip then ask you to comment on it. Gerry Kelly is, of course, a leading member of Sinn Féin, was a former prisoner, escaped from Long Kesh and has been a party leader for a long period of time from the Belfast area. Okay, we’re going to try and play this clip.
Audio: Clip from The View is played.
MG: Sorry, did we lose it?
AM: I didn’t manage to hear it but I know the clip you’re referring to.
Audio: Clip from The View continues.
MG: I’ll just read you the last part of it. Gerry Kelly was asked by Mark Carruthers: Would you be happy to see IRA men being brought before the courts who have not previously served time for their actions if fresh evidence came to light to enable prosecutions to be possible? And he asked the question a couple of times and Gerry Kelly ends up saying: I’d accept that. That’s three times you’ve asked me. I’ve answered it. It wouldn’t be uncomfortable with me. So basically what he was saying is that if there was new evidence against former members of the IRA for historic incidents that happened during the struggle, the period between 1968-1969, 1994-1998, that he would not be uncomfortable with seeing them be prosecuted. And certainly he didn’t seem to be uncomfortable when Gerry McGeough or Seamus…
MG: …Seamus Kearney were being prosecuted. How do you feel about – what’s your reaction to that quote?
AM: Well firstly I’m surprised that Gerry McGeough or anybody else is shocked that Gerry Kelly would do this. I mean for a long time Gerry Kelly has been calling for people to inform to the British on Republicans involved in Republican activity. He’s been calling for people to inform on the physical force tradition which, I mean even Republicans opposed to physical force – any political violence whatsoever – would, on the grounds of conscientious objection, desist from doing. And it goes back to the Fresh Start Agreement that Sinn Féin are now arguing – and Gerry Kelly did it a couple of weeks ago in relation to the prosecution of two British Paratroopers, former British Paratroopers, in relation to the extrajudicial killing of the Official IRA leader, Joe McCann – Gerry Kelly then made the point very clearly that anybody, and he didn’t say just British soldiers he said anybody who, against whom there was evidence, should be prosecuted. And he said the same the other night. So, as a former IRA leader Gerry Kelly is quite willing to see the men that he sent out on IRA activity be prosecuted by the British and it’s not going to make him uncomfortable. I think it sums up basically the character and political perspective of Gerry Kelly. I remember in prison Gerry Kelly giving me the two books, Animal Farm and 1984, by George Orwell and telling me to read them and recommending that they were worth the reading because they give an insight to what politicians who cannot be trusted will do when they get power or you allow a party to get out of control and develop an authoritarian ethos. I think many people will be very disappointed in Gerry Kelly but I’ve come to expect it.
MG: Alright Anthony, we have a lot more we could cover but unfortunately we’ve run out of time. I want to thank you for being with us. (ends time stamp ~ 56:06)
Martin Galvin (MG) speaks to Doire-based journalist Eamon Sweeney (ES) via telephone from Doire who updates us on the Bloody Sunday prosecutions status and about events this week leading up tomorrow’s Bloody Sunday March for Justice. (begins time stamp ~ 23:19)
MG: Okay. We’re back. I believe we have Eamon Sweeney on the line from the very well-known…
ES: …Hi, Martin.
MG: Eamon – Hello! Welcome back to Radio Free Éireann. Eamon, of course, is a well-known Doire reporter and journalist who was formerly with the Derry Journal. Eamon, this week – it’s the forty-fifth anniversary, I believe it’s today, of Bloody Sunday – that terrible day when people were protesting – it was still a predominance in terms of the civil rights movement as opposed to armed struggle. Internment had been begun by the British, torture had been coupled with internment. There had been the Ballymurphy Massacre and other events like that that had escalated the level of armed struggle between the British and between Irish Republicans but on Bloody Sunday a large civil rights march had occurred and thirteen people were shot down – cover-ups. The Widgery Tribunal, which was a complete judicial whitewash, immediately it was announced that the individuals who were shot were gunmen or nail bombers or otherwise criminals and for those forty-five years the families of those victims have been fighting for justice, fighting to put the real criminals of that day, British troopers and those who commanded them, in the docks. Eamon, where are we in terms of getting prosecutions of those British troopers who committed those ‘unjustified and unjustifiable killings’, as it was called by British Prime Minister Cameron, on Bloody Sunday?
ES: At the moment no further forward at all – forty-five years later on as you said. The update on that would be that the murder investigation that took place under the auspices of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) has concluded some months ago but as yet the Department of Public Prosecutions have not announced the decision on whether they are going to prosecute any soldiers in relation to the murders on Bloody Sunday or not. Time is dragging on – it’s been purposely delayed – as well-known by all the relatives seeking the prosecution of soldiers. The update at Westminster at the moment where they have openly admitted they’re formulating specific legislation in terms of making sure that old age pensioners soldiers, ie soldiers over the age of sixty-five, are going to be immune from prosecution and that of course would include the vast majority, I would assume, of those who carried out the killings forty-five years ago in this town. So in essence no further forward at all, Martin.
MG: Eamon – we’re talking to Eamon Sweeney about Bloody Sunday – what’s happening this weekend. The person who’s going to make that decision – now there was – I actually, in researching this article, hit up ‘Bloody Sunday prosecution may soon occur’ – it was from a BBC article in 2010; we’re now in 2017. The person who’s going to make that decision, Barra McGrory, he is the Director of Public Prosecutions – like what we would call a District Attorney in the United States, he’s not viewed as a very strong Republican figure by many people here. His father was a very strong opponent of Diplock non-jury courts. Barra McGrory continues to use them against Republican suspects. But during the week there’s been a number of actions taken which seem designed to influence or put pressure or embarrass him – there’s been calls for an independent inquiry, there have been other statements and actions taken – what’s been done, which it seems like it’s there to intimidate or influence Barra McGrory from making the decision to announce prosecutions?
ES: I don’t think Barra McGrory as a person would be swayed either way by any of the criticism that he has encountered in the past week. I think this is directly as the result of a snap election being called and I would imagine that the vast majority of the criticism is being leveled by Unionism and its representatives. Barra McGrory has been labeled as somebody who is not strictly impartial by those in the Unionist community because in the past he has represented figures like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – that doesn’t make him any less of an impartial figure when it comes to operating the position of Director of Public Prosecutions. It’s just nonsense but the man has had to take to the media to defend himself. Whether or not he in the end-up does take the decision to prosecute some of those responsible for the killings in Doire forty-five years ago will rest solely on his shoulders and it has to be evidence-based. And it has to be based on the evidence gleaned from the interviews conducted on these soldiers by the PSNI. So it’s the quality of evidence that will eventually lead, or not lead, to the prosecution of these soldiers. So to point the finger at Barra McGrory for being not an impartial character is absolutely ridiculous when the testimony will have to be tested for its quality by those who gained that information, ie the Police Service of Northern Ireland. So let’s see what they actually come up with. It’s my understanding that a lot of these soldiers who were questioned simply replied when asked questions during the interview, ‘no comment’ which, by and large, keeps them out of contempt of court. So let’s see what actually comes forward from the interviews that were conducted by the police and then, and only then, can Barra McGrory take the decision to prosecute or not.
MG: Well one of the ironic things – I was reading reports that they want to have an inquiry because there’s been some sort of more selective prosecutions of British troopers or British Crown forces since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 – and actually nobody – no British trooper, no member of the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) has been put in jail as the result of any conflict-related offence. Although people like Gerry McGeough, like Seamus Kearney and others have been, who are Republicans, who were jailed for conflict-related offences. So some of the arguments that they’re putting forward, which it seems to embarrass Barra McGrory, just have no validity. But what is going to happen with the families this weekend? Tomorrow there is another activity, it’s a climax of a week of activities to commemorate Bloody Sunday – what’s going to happen tomorrow? What’s been happening all week in Doire to commemorate Bloody Sunday and also to put more pressure, more drive, more demand and more appeal for there to be prosecutions of those who are guilty of murder of their loved ones?
ES: Well the March for Justice as it’s now called doesn’t just concentrate on the events of Bloody Sunday. Whilst it commemorates the victims who were killed on the thirtieth of January 1972 it takes in the broad remit of international human rights. So during this week there have been several well, very well-attended events. The one which I attended and I found very fascinating was in the City Hotel last Wednesday night and it was broadly on the theme of internment which was what the Bloody Sunday demonstration was originally about in 1972 – campaigning against taking people from their beds basically and putting them in concentration camps without trial or charge – so on Wednesday night we had a speaker for the campaign Justice for the Craigavon Two, which your listeners would be well aware of. We had Francie McGuigan, he was one of the ‘hooded men’ – twelve guys who were taken to Ballykelly Army Camp in the early ’70’s and basically subjected to five horrific techniques of torture which the British invented and then sent around the world to countries, including your own, as a blueprint for the way forward for torture methods.
We also had Moazzam Begg who spoke of his incarceration and torture in Guantánamo Bay. Interestingly, as Moazzam Begg was speaking we received news that Donald Trump had just authorised through an Executive Order the re-opening of CIA torture units throughout the world. So things like that but it also covers topics such as austerity, economic austerity, which has been rampant in Britain and Ireland for the past almost ten years now since the economic crash and the effect that it’s having on working-class people on a day and daily basis. So the scenes of Bloody Sunday, whilst it concentrates and remembers those butchered in the streets of Doire – and they were butchered by the British Army – it also highlights these other injustices throughout the world. It’s becoming more of an international event as the years go on. Tomorrow the main speaker, after the normal march, which beings at around two thirty from the usual spot in Creggan shops, which you’ll know well, Martin, will be a lady called Sheila Coleman. Sheila’s a Liverpudlian woman from England and she will speak about her experiences of spearheading the campaign to break the cover-up that took place over the deaths of ninety-six football fans at Hillsborough soccer ground in England in 1989. Now the parallels between the cover-up that happened after Bloody Sunday and the police cover-up which took place in England are startling – the same amount of aggression, the same amount of whitewashing – it went on and on. The likelihood however for the relatives of Hillsborough will be that it’s quite likely, sooner rather than later, that the policemen at high level in England who attempted to cover this up for twenty-five years and more will face prosecution and quite likely face jail time. That’s the main difference between what’s happened at Hillsborough and what’s happening with Bloody Sunday in Doire. So she would be a very powerful speaker I would imagine. And the crowds that typically attended the march in the past five-six years are growing – I estimated myself as a journalist last year it was around four or five thousand people marching on the streets on Doire in the pouring rain, which being here at this time of year, Martin, is not particularly pleasant at times but the event is going from strength to strength each year. So that would be the fulcrum of it tomorrow I would imagine.
MG: Well the families – Kate Nash, Linda Nash – all of the families who continue that march have done a tremendous job. They’ve gone through so much – forty-five years, the Widgery Tribunal, all of the other things – delays that they faced and it seems that every time they get close to prosecutions it’s just – it’s like Sisyphus – the boulder gets pushed down the table. But I just want to mention – I was just struck by something – a press release that came out during the week and it was by a member of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families and it was really poignant. And I know Kate Nash, Linda Nash, some of the Bloody Sunday families have sympathy for other victims such as the Ballymurphy Massacre Families . And that had occurred just in August, around the time of internment – a number of people had been shot in the Nationalist/Republican areas by some of the same troopers, the British Paratroop Regiment, and one of the spokesmen for that campaign was saying we haven’t even gotten to the point where our families have been cleared. I believe John Teggart said my father is down as a gunman – that’s how he was branded after he was shot. He was shot a number of times, he was just there on the street near his own home as internment was being carried out or in the three days following internment. So it’s not just – Bloody Sunday stands out as an example because there were so many thousands of witnesses who were there because there were so many photographers, reporters like yourself, Eamon, who were there to cover the event. It was done outside, in public, and the British were able for so many years or have been able for so many years to stall any prosecutions. But it just brings to mind the impact on so many other families in The North of Ireland whose family members were murdered, who were never given any kind of justice even in the form of having the excuses – having family members then branded as criminals to excuse and cover up their murders by British forces that they haven’t been able to get to the truth and how Bloody Sunday, really, is a fight for all of them. Would you agree with that?
ES: I can agree with that; one hundred percent agree with that. I mean you also have an incident not related to Ballymurphy or Bloody Sunday around that same time by the same members of the Parachute Regiment: Two completely innocent Protestant civilians shot dead on the Skankill Road by these guys as well for no apparent reason apart from they took pot shots at them and more or less executed them in the street. Those families – let it be made clear that it’s just not Nationalist or Catholic communities who have suffered at the hands of British forces in Ireland. You know, the Protestant community has been hit as well, many times. So on and on and on ad infinitum. The purposeful policy of the British government, with regard to Northern Ireland, is to delay and stall and go on and on until they hope that those relatives here fighting for justice – whether it be from the Shankill Road, whether it be from the Bogside in Doire, whether it be from Ballymurphy in Belfast will die and eventually the claims will go away. If you listen to people, for example, like Kate Nash and Linda Nash or Francie McGuigan, one of the ‘hooded men’ who spoke in the city on Wednesday night, they make it perfectly clear that when they go their children and their grandchildren will continue on this campaign until their loved ones’ names are completely vindicated and those responsible, whether it be posthumously or not, responsible for their murder will eventually have their names be made public and shamed as such which is judicial process – it’s the rule of law in any other civilised society. The shroud of darkness conducted by British forces in Ireland still remains the same. Whilst violence has largely abated in this country the legacy of what’s left behind and what went on carried out by a supposedly legitimate state force of a western democracy has been utterly shameful. Be under no illusion that the relatives of these people will not stop this until redress is actually achieved.
MG: Alright Eamon, before we go we’d like to ask you about one other case – you mentioned internment – there is a case – it’s called internment-by-remand that of another Doire man, Tony Taylor, who was – served a sentence as a Republican and then just one day was shopping with his wife and child and was picked up and was put in prison, doesn’t get told why or what the basis of putting him back in on licence – what’s happening with Tony Taylor’s case?
ES: Well as I’m sure you’re aware there was another event last night but I know Mr. Taylor’s family and his wife and the supporters of his campaign, which there are many across a large spectrum, held an event to highlight the plight of Tony Taylor in one of the hotels in Doire. I can’t comment on how well it was attended because I unfortunately wasn’t there. But what I can tell you is that the campaign to free Tony Taylor is ongoing. This guy, as you said, was simply lifted from a shopping mall one afternoon with his family and taken away by the police and incarcerated. He has not been informed why – largely it’s on the say-so of undercover security operations, or security forces. His lawyers haven’t been informed of the reason why he’s been incarcerated without charge. His family hasn’t been told why. So whilst internment was launched on the ninth of August 1970 internment in Ireland has gone on in every single decade since Northern Ireland was formed as a state – from the ’20’s right through to this present day. It’s called something different, slightly different now – it’s internment-by-remand. So this guy is sitting in jail for almost a year now, or over a year, and hasn’t been informed why he’s there.
Now if, as I’ve said on this programme many times before, the British are so proud of their great form of justice then bring the man into a courtroom and let’s see what the evidence against the guy actually is otherwise release him. What they’re doing is technically illegal. On the say-so of some British apparatchik this guy has been taken from his family home and put in jail. He’s not the first – this happened to Marian Price. It happened to Martin Corey. They were eventually released but under horrendous conditions in terms of they weren’t allowed to fraternise with certain people, they were under curfew, they had to report to a police station every day, they were removed of any communication devices and so on and so forth. So in the twenty-first century in the year 2017 this type of bullying from the British state still continues in this country. There’s no other way around it. Give the man due process or let him go.
MG: Alright.Eamon on that note – we’re talking again with Eamon Sweeney, a Doire-based reporter and journalist. I want to thank you. We want to – we hope you’ll extend our good wishes and our support and our solidarity with all of those who march tomorrow – marching for justice not only for the victims of Bloody Sunday but for all of the other issues that you’ve talked about, the injustices under British rule. Thank you, Eamon.
26 January 2017
By John Teggart
Folks over the last number of weeks there has been a massive step up in the campaign to prevent state forces ‘Pensioners’ from being brought to account for the many murders they have been involved in the past these were not just ‘stray bullets,’cross fire’ or ‘moment of madness’. Examples of some of the massacres of the innocents carried out Ballymurphy 11, Bloody Sunday 14, Springhill 5, Shankill 2, Newlodge 6 etc. Victims’ families feelings have been totally ignored by certain politicians. The grief felt by the death of your loved one during The Troubles is no different whether it is caused by the State, Republican or Loyalist violence. We hear comments spurned out like ‘we will not allow history to be rewritten’, ‘the legacy process is one sided’, ‘we need to have a level playing field’ and, the favourite one of the Tory government, ‘Terrorists were responsible for 90 per cent of all killings during The Troubles’. These comments can be really hurtful and also deceitful. Families want to correct history not rewrite it.
My father, Danny Teggart, still stands officially as being a gun man when he was shot by the army, just like hundreds more. Father Raymond Murray’s research many years back put statistics in what I feel is the correct score on the ‘playing field’ people can make their own judgment on this.
Death Toll: 14 August 1969 to 31 December 1994
Deaths Due to:
Security Forces Activity
Other: Unclassified or Uncertain
Source: Murray, R. State Violence: Northern Ireland 1969-1997. Cork, Ireland: Mercier Press, 1998, p.245.
# killed by Pro-state forces: 1273
# killed by Republican forces: 1838 # killed by others: 60
Republican: 58.2% 30,000 civilians processed through the courts
3 British soldiers convicted for murder
These statistics finish in 1994. We now know that since then state agents were armed and controlled for many years killer squads included agents Brian Nelson, Steak Knife, Haddock, Glenanne Gang and the infamous MRF. I haven’t got my calculator in front of me but seems that ‘10%’ is growing. We also now know, with great work of Anne Cadwallader book, who is responsible for over 100 murders. Think we should add state collusion in all its forms now. I remember working out years back between March 1970 to October 1972 security forces were responsible on average for one death per week in the north of Ireland, these included men, women, children and two Catholic priests. This is something for these complaining ex veterans to think about who once again proudly wear their uniform to march all over the legal system and the memory of our loved ones this weekend in Parliament Square London. Judge for yourselves what the real percentage of State involvement in the conflict is to date, I hope not to hear about this 10% again!
Conor Brophy (CB) speaks to Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams (GA) via telephone about Martin McGuinness’ retirement and today’s release of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIA or Hart) report. (begins)
CB: Sinn Féin is to name the person who will succeed Martin McGuinness as the party’s leader in The North on Monday next. Martin McGuinness announced his retirement from politics yesterday. Ill health means he’s not physically capable of continuing in his current role, he said, and will prevent him from contesting the upcoming Assembly elections. Well we’re joined now by Sinn Féin President, Gerry Adams. Good Afternoon, Gerry Adams.
GA: Good Afternoon, Conor.
CB: You paid tribute yesterday to a man you described a ‘friend and comrade’ whom you first met over forty-five years ago behind the barricades in Free Derry. It’s a long time ago both in temporal and in political terms.
GA: Yeah, before I deal with that, Conor, may I just welcome the publication of the historical abuse report. It’s a vindication of those who campaigned and those who gave evidence and I hope they have a sense of vindication today. Yes, forty-five years ago and the barricades were up in the Bogside and the Brandywell and the west bank of the Foyle I suppose and that’s the first time I met with Martin McGuinness and we have been on a journey since. Good comrades. Good friends. I think he’s been a remarkable leader, a remarkable and very, very decent human being and I value the role that he has played. And I know that he and Bernie are empowered and uplifted by the warm messages that have come to them and the best wishes for their good health so hopefully he will get the space to get better. And he’s not retiring, you know he’s stepped down from elected office but he intends to continue as best he can and hopefully in the fullness of health will be back with the rest of us moving forward against the Brexit consequences, facing up to the bad policies of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael but in the meantime making sure we get the best result by good negotiations out of this election in The North.
CB: What happens between now and Monday?
GA: Well, we’ve a big united Ireland conference in the Mansion House on the very day, on the very date, in the very place that the First Dáil met. We will make our – we will consult with our Ard Comhairle over the weekend and we will make the announcement, as I said earlier, of Martin’s successor. And I was making the point: You know, we’re not replacing Martin McGuinness because he’s irreplaceable but the new person coming into the job needs to be able to put his or her mark on that job within our general – you know, reconciliation towards unity, making the institutions work for everyone – we just have to give that new person a bit of a space and we’re blessed with a huge number of candidates who could do that job.
CB: Such as?
GA: Well I’m not gong to name names now but they’re all in the public arena and you know, we are a party which is in generational transition and it’s very, very good to have the benefit of a panel of people – older people down to people in their twenties and all the sort of ages in between with various talents and experiences – and right across the entire island of Ireland.
CB: Yourself and Martin McGuinness have been inseparable over a long period of years now. Does his departure from active politics, if we can put it that way, give you pause for thought now about the timeline preceding, perhaps, your own departure?
GA: Well Martin made it clear and I actually said this publicly last year that we are a party in transition and then that means a change of leadership. But I think one big announcement at the beginning of the year – and you know that wasn’t planned – Martin’s illness intruded and you know that’s the way life is at times – but we do have a plan and we will stick to that plan but it’s enough that we absorb Martin’s vacating of that office and get the very best person into that office and they’ll assist at making the election as sensible as possible and then get the political institutions back in place based upon the foundations which always should have guided them and that is equality, parity of esteem, treating people fairly, and moving forward in that direction.
CB: Mary Lou McDonald said this morning: ‘All of us understand that we’re in transition’. She said: ‘Gerry hasn’t set a date’. Will you be setting one or will you set one now?
GA: No, as I’ve said – one big announcement’s enough for anybody so that’s the only announcement you’re going to get at this time. We’ll return to this at some other time.
CB: You mentioned at the outset your comments on the Hart Inquiry which says the Stormont Executive and the institutions who ran homes should offer a wholehearted and unconditional apology. Of course we have, realistically, no government in place now neither to issue an apology nor to deal with some of the pressing issues that may come out of that inquiry and survivors of abuse, victims of abuse, talking for instance, about the requirement for compensation.
GA: Well we wanted to make an interim compensationry commitment to those victims some time ago – it was the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) who blocked that. You know, why are we into an election, Conor? Because half a billion pounds went down the drain amid allegations of corruption and fraud and because the minister who presided over that refused to countenance the type of proper inquiry or investigation which would have given the people the facts of all of that and that’s just not sustainable at all and that’s why we’re into an election at this point. Be sure – I know some of the victims. I’ve worked with them. I admire them. They have met all of our ministers, including Mary Lou McDonald and others in the Oireachtas, so we support them fully and that’s why I welcome so much the Hart report.
CB: You have heard, for example, be that as it may, that the institutions have collapsed and wherever we ascribe blame for that, you have heard, for example, Margaret McGuckin, who helped set up Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, or SAVIA, and talking in recent weeks about her concerns about how long it will be before there’s a government in place to deal in practical terms with the findings of this inquiry and all these clouds hanging over the future of power-sharing now, if we’re into a period of direct rule realistically that’s not going to be a priority for Westminster.
GA: Well that’s not countenanced and I know Margaret, I know her well and I have supported her and her campaign and Sinn Féin was the party which brought about this necessary historic abuse inquiry, that’s why I said in my earlier remarks – let’s have a decent election, that’s everybody – and this includes the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) – move forward, ask the people for their votes based upon those principles of the Good Friday Agreement and then get the institutions back in place – we don’t have any other notion of doing it in any other way except through the political institutions which were set up and then that issue, that urgent issue, will be dealt with along with many other urgent issues but I do have a particular affection for that campaign because I met some of the people and they weren’t believed and they were dismissed for decades and now they’ve had their vindication and now it’s up to us to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon.
CB: And finally, Gerry Adams, if we can return to the issue of leadership and of Martin McGuinness’ departure from the scene at least in terms of active politics, obviously you’re not going to name names but what does a new leader need to possess? What attributes do they need to possess if they’re going to emulate Martin McGuinness’ example?
GA: Well I just want to stress the point that Martin hasn’t retired. He has stood down from elected office if you like. He remains a member of our Ard Comhairle. I was in touch with him this morning. He’s regularly in touch with us across a range of issues but anybody coming in, as I said earlier I think, it’s not about replacing Martin McGuinness – he’s, he’s you know, a one-off. But what we are is to have somebody there that will show a generosity of spirit, to be totally committed to the notion of equality. Obviously, every Sinn Féiner, as you said, is an islander but we have to persuade the Unionists that that’s the way forward and also to be tough in terms of the way, at times, the governments are nonchalant about how they handle these issues, in particular the British government, doesn’t want to handle the issues of equality and fairness and so also the Irish government needs to be all the time briefed fully on what it needs to do in terms of keeping the British government right. So it’s a big challenge but we’re also a collective leadership. You know and Martin obviously brought his own personality and his own particular way and his say as to all of this but he would be the first to say that he was backed up by a team of Sinn Féin people at the Assembly, the people who worked, you know the Special Advisers (SpADs), both from within the civil service and particularly within Sinn Féin who worked with him, so we’d ensure that the person coming into that job has all that support.
CB: Alright. We will wait and see how that leadership question will be resolved. Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin president, thank you. (ends)
John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to award-winning Belfast journalist Suzanne Breen (SB) via telephone from Belfast who delivers insightful commentary on the future of government in The North of Ireland in the wake of the collapse of Stormont. (begins time stamp ~ 33:50)
JM: Well right now we’re going to head back to Belfast and speak with Suzanne Breen who writes for many publications north and south of the border and maybe she can give us an overall view of what’s going on. And I just want to remind our audience that: Here in New York City our population is eight point five million. We have fifty-one Council members to distribute the budget and to run the City of New York. Over in the Six Counties they are at one point six million. They have a hundred and eight MLAs at the moment; they’re going to reduce it to ninety people. So they have probably one of the greatest representations of the people living in a small area and for that little area it certainly causes a lot of problems. And Suzanne, are you on the line?
SB: I am indeed, John. Hi!
JM: Yeah I just wanted to go – when we have people over from Belfast and I take them down to City Hall and around they can’t believe how small our City Hall is and they’re comparing it to something like Stormont, which is this great edifice outside of Belfast. But it’s so grandiose – the people over there with the huge buildings and then the titles of ‘Lord Mayor’ and everything and then how many representatives are from just that small area of the island.
SB: Yes well, I mean Stormont is a stunningly beautiful building – gorgeous marble, corridors inside, chandeliers – it really looks the part. The problem is that what transpires inside is more like the end of a Christmas pantomime than serious politics so its inhabitants have very much let their surroundings down.
MG: Suzanne, this is Martin Galvin. I just was going through some of our old interviews and on November 21st there was a joint piece, it was put together by Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, it was printed in the Irish News and it said: ‘this is what delivery looks like’, ‘no gimmicks’, ‘no grandstanding’ just the ministers ‘getting on with the work’ and everything looked like the government would last for five years, they couldn’t have been working together more happily according to that piece, which was only about six weeks ago. And now we’re in a position where it looks like a British minister may be calling an election, where the government has completely collapsed, where Martin McGuinness has resigned. What happened in those few weeks?
SB: Well basically when Sinn Féin and the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) were saying everything was hunky dory they weren’t completely telling the truth because the DUP was not willing to share power in any meaningful, generous way with Sinn Féin but Sinn Féin seemed to be prepared to accept that kind of ‘back of the bus’ treatment just in order to ride the gravy train in Stormont which provides a whole heap of jobs, access to funding, patronage, pet projects that can be financed. But on key issues, like for example an Irish language act, like progressing equal rights for people regardless of their sexuality, the DUP were saying ‘no’ and it was able to employ what is called a Petition of Concern (PoC) whereby if they have the signatures of thirty of its members it could stop the wishes of the other seventy-eight members of the Assembly from having their say in a democratic vote. Basically what happened was there was this whole ‘cash for ash’ scandal. It was a botched energy project from beginning in 2012. It happened under Arlene Foster’s watch and in the latter part of last year details of this started drifting out into the media and it became a colossally big story and the DUP handled it very, very badly. They made what was a problem into a crisis. Sinn Féin asked for Arlene Foster to stand aside for four weeks to allow for an independent investigation and this was in many ways a very minor request…
MG: …Suzanne, that was compared – it just seemed like they were asking her to do what Peter Robinson had designed for himself as his rehabilitation from the ‘Irisgate’ scandal in 2010: He stepped aside, he said he was going to step aside for six weeks, he was back within three. Arlene Foster had that open to her. She could have come back and said: Now we’re past this, let’s move on and the scandal is over with.
SB: Well Sinn Féin was suggesting this just as Stormont closed naturally for the Christmas holidays. If Arlene had taken that up she would be back now in office. I mean it would be common procedure in other parliaments, in Westminster for example, for a minister who presided over the equivalent of this to step aside but Arlene Foster said that she wasn’t doing that. And she went to address the Assembly to give a personal statement even though she needed the approval of Martin McGuinness, who holds – even though he’s Deputy First Minister and she’s First Minister it’s meant to be a joint office – and then really something that inflamed and angered a lot of Nationalists was that on the eve of Christmas Eve the DUP cut fifty thousand pounds in funding to a project to send children from deprived, poor areas to the Gaeltacht. So given that the DUP had just effectively lost five hundred million pounds of public money this pulling fifty thousand pounds looked very, very petty and very nasty from a party that was facing its own crisis and it really seemed that this was another occasion for the DUP to poke Sinn Féin in the eye.
MG: Now Suzanne, you’ve written in a number of articles that this was – that Martin McGuinness’ decision to resign – Sinn Féin is very much a top-ordered, they pretty much set the agenda, they’re viewed as very successful in bringing along the grassroots – you’ve written in both the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent that the decision to resign came from the grassroots or was driven by the grassroots. Why do you say that?
SB: Well just before Christmas, even after Arlene Foster had done all this, the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) has a Motion of No Confidence before the chamber in Stormont and Sinn Féin refused to support it. Sinn Féin’s words were very tolerant, very mild and they were really attempting to give Arlene Foster a way out. Sinn Féin alone hasn’t called for a public inquiry into RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) and it calls for public inquiries all the time into all sorts of things – RHI is this botched energy scheme that is at the heart of the ‘cash for ash’ scandal. So while the likes of parties such as Alliance, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP, regarded as far less radical than Sinn Féin, were demanding a public inquiry Sinn Féin wasn’t. Sinn Féin was very much trying to let the DUP off the hook. But over the Christmas period they got a lot of abuse from their grassroots who said that this was just a further example of them accepting second-class treatment from the DUP. So Sinn Féin returned to Stormont very much needing to take a much stronger line with the DUP and with Arlene Foster. Again, the DUP refused any attempt to compromise so Sinn Féin said that Martin McGuinness was resigning as Deputy First Minister and that effectively pulled the Executive down. Now that’s something that the DUP had calculated Sinn Féin would never do because they thought that Sinn Féin enjoyed riding the gravy train too much and also that Martin McGuinness, unlike Gerry Adams, wasn’t a very egotistical man and that he was prepared to take kind of the put downs and not getting his way and you know Martin would stay regardless. So the DUP thought they had the measure of Sinn Féin – these guys will never pull out – and Sinn Féin called their bluff.
JM: Well Suzanne, you talk about the gravy train – it looks like it’s going to be getting a lot shorter in the next election. There’s a hundred and eight MLAs to represent the one point six million. They’re reducing it down to ninety. What will the in-fighting be like within the Loyalist political parties, within Sinn Féin? Certain people are going to have to lose their seats within these political parties and will they go for younger people to be representatives? Or will they just try to keep in the old guard? I mean, how is that going to play out?
SB: Well, one in six Assembly members aren’t coming back so, for example, I know that there are people, for example in the DUP, who are just elected – basically elected a handful of months who have maybe given up other careers to pursue this in Stormont, who have young families, who have mortgages to pay and who now face the prospect of unemployment and they’re not happy. And some of these people in the DUP, they’re saying: Look, this isn’t our mess. We didn’t create this. It’s our leadership who took these decisions that has brought Northern Ireland to political crisis. Why should we be paying the price? But as all the parties decide that they’re running fewer candidates and select certain people and if certain people aren’t selected that will cause bad feeling and that will cause resentment. Now I think that’s very much more the case with the DUP than with Sinn Féin. The opposite is true at the moment with Sinn Fein. Even though logically I don’t think Sinn Féin can defend the switch from a very moderate position to an apparently hard line position now their grassroots really are buying it – people are returning to their ranks, that were disillusioned, they’re energised and they’re saying: There’s an election. Bring it on! Let’s get out there! And they’re very much looking forward to an election where the DUP now, for all its bluster and bravado in the past, is really, really on the back foot and it’s very worried about facing the electorate – a very angry electorate, not just in Nationalist areas but in Unionist areas at the loss of public money and at the apparent arrogance of Arlene Foster. What the DUP will try to do in coming weeks is to sectarianise the election and to try and push the old buttons that bring the Unionist voters back into their ranks.
MG: Alright Suzanne, what effect do you think this will have on the fact that Arlene Foster is the person who’s viewed as responsible for the RHI scandal? Do you think that that will have an impact in terms of the Democratic Unionist Party within the Unionist community? Do you think it’s going to cause a shift in favour of, say, Jim Allister or in favour of the Ulster Unionists or do you think their voters are going to come back to them in terms of the election results?
SB: Well I think what’s going on is huge. The DUP had been saying they weren’t worried about an election at all you know and they had done the maths. They were so far ahead because they are twice as big as their nearest Unionist rival, the Ulster Unionists, and they have I think it’s two hundred and six thousand votes compared I think, off the top of my head, to eighty-six thousand votes for Mike Nesbitt of the Ulster Unionist Party – so that’s a colossal lead and it’s very, very hard for the smaller Unionist parties – who I think actually will do well – but it’s very, very hard for them to catch up with the DUP.
The Ulster Unionists have some very strong candidates running in constituencies but there would be a feeling that Mike Nesbitt, their leader, while he’s a very good media performer just really hasn’t managed to touch the hearts of ordinary Unionists. That they don’t see him as ‘one of us’ – that he somehow just seems to be a little detached or perhaps lives in another class. Jim Allister of the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice) is very much the opposite. He would be in tune with many ordinary Unionists’ thinking. He would be by far and away the best political performer at Stormont, very much on the ball, shoots from the hip. The problem he has is that he hasn’t been able to build a credible party and that he doesn’t have credible candidates to run and basically the organisational structures locally to fight a good election. But the DUP will also have to challenge the apathy that there’ll be – a lot of Unionists might say: Do you know what? I’m not coming out to vote for any of you boys and girls. And this election will take place in the heart of winter, I mean most likely in February – you know, a very, very different feeling to a February election than to a May or June one. Now I think the Alliance centre-ground moderate party – it’s leader says she’s neither Unionist or Nationalist, Naomi Long, I think they’ll have a very good election but they mightn’t pick up any more seats because the gap between them and the larger parties is just too huge. I think the SDLP are in trouble in this election. They have a team of very young and talented MLAs but with Sinn Féin taking a much more militant line, and that going down well with Nationalist grassroots, the SDLP will very much be up against it.
MG: Alright, Suzanne, just what happens if we get basically the same results: That the DUP is still the leading Unionist party, Sinn Féin is still the leading Nationalist party. You get two parties, Arlene Foster is still the head of the DUP will come together and Arlene Foster says she’s not going to stand aside for any investigation which is the position that she has taken, what happens then in terms of the legalities of forming a government in The North?
SB: Well both are probably still going to emerge as the largest party but it does depend on the number of seats that they win, Martin. For example, the DUP at the moment is at thirty-eight and Sinn Féin’s at twenty-eight. The DUP is still ahead but not that much ahead. Then it really does have to adopt a more conciliatory approach to Sinn Féin and the number we should all be focusing on is ‘thirty’. Thirty is the number – if the DUP gets thirty or more it’s able to use the Petition of Concern which is a very strong weapon in the Assembly. If the DUP falls behind thirty then it can’t use that weapon. Certainly after any election, I don’t think it’s just going to be a few weeks of negotiations between Sinn Féin, the DUP and the two governments. I think this could go on for months and months if not years and years and we are in for quite a long period of direct rule. Sinn Féin are saying at the moment that they want to negotiate – the whole structure and all the agreements – they want a re-negotiation, they want to go back to the start and they want to ensure the protections and promises that were made to them at the Good Friday Agreement are actually finally delivered. So at the moment everything is up in the air but this will be a very, very interesting election. And as well there will be groups like People Before Profit in Doire and in Belfast attempting to say: Look, a plague on all your houses and pointing out to Sinn Féin’s own record in government and saying to working-class communities, you know: Give us a chance. People Before Profit may well run two candidates, as opposed to just one, in West Belfast and that would put them in a very powerful position if it is successful – they would have won two of the five seats in West Belfast, the jewel in Sinn Féin’s crown.
MG: Alright, Suzanne, we’re going to have to leave it there with the programme. We want to thank you and hopefully we’ll be reading you in the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish Independent and some of the other papers that you write for just to keep us up-to-date on this. Thank you very much, Suzanne Breen, the noted, award-winning Belfast-based journalist. Thank you, Suzanne.
John McDonagh (JM) and Martin Galvin (MG) speak to Kathryn Johnston (KJ), co-author of the book, Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government, via telephone from Belfast about Martin McGuinness’ resignation as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 19:04)
JM: Now we’re going to cover – get back to what’s going on in the wee Six Counties where the government was collapsed this week and it was because Martin McGuinness whose the Deputy First Minister – whatever that title is but he was the poodle to the First Minister, Arlene Foster, who runs the show over there but being if he resigns he can collapse the institutions. And we’re going to have on Kathryn Johnston and the last time I think we had her on we had her on with her husband, Liam Clarke,a writer over there who used to write for The Telegraph and a couple of other newspapers, they were arrested by – I don’t know if it was the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) or the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) – but it was the police force there over an investigation and we had both of them on about that arrest. But she’s also written a book calledMartin McGuinness: From Guns to Governmentand it’s the unauthorised biography of Martin McGuinness…
MG: John, wasn’t that supposed to end up:From guns to government to a united Ireland?
JM: Well, that part there was left out. Maybe they didn’t have enough room on the front page of the book. But Kathryn, are you on there?
KJ: I am indeed, John. Nice to talk to you again.
JM: You know what, Kathryn…
KJ: …Thanks for the plug for the book and I have to tell all your listeners: It’s now available on Amazon Kindle with a couple of updates which take us to about 2012 and we’ll be doing another update for the Kindle once the Assembly election is over and this all pans out.
JM: Now, I went through like who you interviewed for this book and it looked like our guest list here on WBAI over the years. I mean, you had George Harrison on from Brooklyn, New York. You had Mickey and Martina Donnelly and Martina’s now passed away; we had Mickey on last week and also Ian Hurst who is MI5 or he worked for FRU, the Force Research Unit…
KJ: Well yeah, he worked for FRU…
JM: But you also had a guy on that we knew here in New York, Phil Kent, who – I used to call him as – the man from God knows where…
MG: …everybody used to call him that.
KJ: Oh yeah, of course!
JM: …He used to just appear out of nowhere at Rocky Sullivan’s or here at the station and – but what was the conversation that you had with George Harrison because what a lot of people might not know when Martin McGuinness was in the IRA, although he won’t admit to it up to a certain stage, here was out here in Brooklyn, where we’re broadcasting from, staying with George Harrison.
KJ: Yeah he was. He was staying with George Harrison. He’d just become Chief of Staff. I can’t remember if it was ’79 or ’80 that he first went out to stay with George Harrison. But in February 1978 Gerry Adams was Chief of Staff of the IRA and then after the La Mon bombing in February ’78 Gerry Adams was arrested and Martin McGuinness took over Chief of Staff and he was Chief of Staff then all through 1978 and ’79 including when Lord Mountbatten was killed. But in either ’79 or ’80 he went out and stayed with George Harrison to do a major arms deal there. And he traveled all over the place. I mean it was a very successful arms deal for the IRA and I mean I’m not sure how he managed to travel so easily without the authorities knowing about it but I mean there’s no doubt about it – he travel the world for the IRA.
JM: And George didn’t mind talking to you about that? I mean I guess at a certain stage George wanted to talk because of the way the peace process was going on…
KJ: …No, George did talk; he talked to Liam and he confirmed the details of Martin McGuinness being over there. We quote George in the book.
JM: Right, well now Martin McGuinness is in the middle of…
MG: …John, can I just interrupt: He also visited the Irish People office during that time and I…
KJ: …Is that right?
MG: …Yes. I spoke to him at a diner right underneath and that was about the time I came on the Executive for Irish Northern Aid and was made, well I was the editor of the Irish People but I can definitely confirm that he was staying at George Harrison’s at that time.
KJ: (crosstalk) …you know what the situation was like in Ireland at the time and you know that probably as soon as Martin McGuinness became Chief of Staff of the IRA the intelligence agencies were aware of that, too. Does it strike you as strange that he could go over to New York at will?
JM: Well not only that – look who came afterwards – it was Denis Donaldson – who was allowed free rein to roam around New York and everything – I mean there is a coincidence like you’re saying – someone that would have that high a profile within the IRA staying with George Harrison who would have been one of the top IRA guys here.
KJ: Would have been well-known at least in those times…
JM: …Oh, to say the least! Well listen, Kathryn, what is the importance of Martin McGuinness to the whole peace process and why is it just this one man resigning can collapse the institutions that he’s been so in favour of for ten years?
KJ: Well, although his title is Deputy First Minister and Arlene Foster is First Minister in reality it’s a joint office and they act as Joint First Minister so when Martin McGuinness resigns the office of First Minister must go as well and that automatically collapses the institutions. Now the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Tory MP James Brokenshire, spoke in the House of Commons during the week and he said that if there is no sign of Sinn Féin nominating another Deputy First Minister by shortly after the weekend he will call an election. Now, he has a bit of leeway on that so he could wait a while but he can’t wait that long and there’s some rumours going round that there’ll be snap elections within three weeks – maybe the end of February beginning of March. And if the same results come up again with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) topping Sinn Féin for the first preference votes and Sinn Féin again refuse to nominate a Deputy First Minister James Brokenshire will have to call another Assembly election. It’s ridiculous.
JM: Well Kathryn, you had an article that was in the Belfast Telegraph this week and you were saying about that Martin McGuinness should really confess to everything that he’s been involved with – his length of time in the IRA, some of the operations he’s was on and you also mention in the article about the Boston tapes – how they’re being used. This is not the case of like South Africa where the ANC (African National Congress) won and were in control of the government and could protect their members. This is a case where the IRA lost, surrendered their weapons and are now administering British rule in Ireland. So how could you make the argument that Martin McGuinness should admit to some of the operations that he was on where maybe people were killed because he would be prosecuted for it?
KJ: Well he’s got limited immunity from prosecution until 1974 for what he told Lord Saville in any case. But I think the whole – it was a major mistake – not tying the release of prisoners, both Loyalist and Republican, to release the prisoners – sorry, sorry – to truth recovery and amnesty and it could have cut both ways. I mean the state certainly has a helluva lot to answer for what was going on in The Troubles and I mean I think it’s a disgrace that the Assembly refuses to engage with the whole question of truth recovery. Now I don’t expect Martin McGuinness or any other combatant, especially given what happened with the Boston tapes, I don’t expect him to stand up and say: Look, we’re going to do Panorama tonight and I’m going to tell everything that I did. But I don’t see anything wrong with Martin McGuinness recording his memoirs, lodging them in a safe place – and he already made much at the Saville Inquiry of the IRA’s ‘code of honour’ which he refused the break and, funnily enough, nobody had ever heard of it before then – but I don’t see anything wrong with him, or indeed any other combatant – Loyalist, Republican and state actors, too, and some people have been courageous – as you pointed out in the Boston tapes – giving their testimony. There’s nothing wrong – it’s open to any of us to be open and frank about what happened in their past. None of us are getting any younger. Martin McGuinness is now in his sixties. He’s now seriously ill. He has a duty not only to the victims and their families but he has a duty to history. Future generations have a right to know exactly what was going on and from 1972 Martin McGuinness was flown to London to have secret talks with William Whitelaw in Cheyne Walk and after that, in 1973, he was engaged in sort of secret talks with Michael Oatley, a very senior MI6 officer. Now those talks continued until Michael Oatley’s retirement in 1991. Now there’s a whole story there. We must know what happened. Future generations deserve to know what happened.
MG: Kathryn, this is Martin Galvin. The problem with that is…
KJ: …Hi, Martin.
MG: … is Ivor Bell, who was also a very senior Republican at that time, he is now being prosecuted by the British government because it’s alleged that interviews which were given to the Boston tapes would inculpate him. Gerry Adams was questioned for a day or two because of the interview that Brendan Hughes gave – which was exactly what you’re talking about – a truth process. And the problem is that the British government is not about – they are prepared, if it suits them, to use any kind of interview – to use it against other Republicans to try and prosecute as they are Ivor Bell, or arrests, or try to use that against Republicans. And that certainly – would not that stop any Republican from doing exactly what you said – as important as that history is, as important as that legacy is – and on the other hand – while the British government was jailing IRA Volunteers, while they were even jailing Unionists, they had an amnesty, a de facto amnesty, against their own troops so if word came out about British troops – what they did at Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy Massacre, etc – they would have completely gotten away without having to face any kind of justice. So how do you answer those concerns in talking about Martin McGuinness putting his memoirs down?
KJ: …Well I take your point and personally I don’t think it’s too late for a proper truth and recovery service to start. I do take your point that of course they’d be risking prosecution that’s why I suggest that individuals lodge them with people that they trust. And you mentioned Ivor Bell there and the Boston tapes, his involvement and his charging and so on with involvement in the murder of Jean McConville. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve heard or not but I think the case may be dropped against Ivor Bell because he has dementia.
MG: Well, there is a defence that is put into the case but there’s no indication yet that the case would be dropped and again he’s facing charges – I don’t know, there’s an allegation that the tape that they say is his voice, it’s under a different voice – it doesn’t belong to him. There is very much an allegation that the person on that tape said he had nothing really to do with what happened to Jean McConville – was just was in another county at the time when it happened – but the British government would manipulate that tape, that type of legacy, that type of truth recovery process – it might just say we have evidence elsewhere. Anyway, we are going on…
KJ: …Just to answer what you just said there: You need to talk to Suzanne or Anthony McIntyre about the Boston tapes…
MG: Well, Suzanne’s on next actually. That’s what we’re trying to cut this…
KJ: ….that would be a good opportunity to ask her. I am far from being an expert but I do believe that the PSNI’s interest in Ivor Bell would be evidence they could get against someone else who was involved.
MG: Well, that may be true but in any event he’s the person in court and under charges.
KJ: Yep, that’s true.
JM: Well listen Kathryn, I’d like to thank you for coming on. This is Kathryn Johnston, she has a book called Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government and you can get it on amazon dot com. And Kathryn, thanks for coming on. Listen who…
KJ: Thanks for having me on. I enjoyed it, John.
JM: Who were you arrested by? Was it the PSNI or the RUC?
KJ: It was the PSNI, yeah. It was a Special Branch operation. We had something like five police trucks outside our house – walking around the garden with sub-machine guns. It sounds funny – it sounds ridiculous now…
KJ: Well the funny thing was – at the time there was a Guardian journalist in Zimbabwe and he was arrested by Mugabe, very, very badly treated and then thrown out of the country. And after our arrest the editor of The Guardian, whose name escapes me – he’s a really famous guy, too – he wrote an editorial about comparing our treatment to that of his staff reporter in Zimbabwe. I mean I think that caused a few ripples with the security services I think. But sure, it’s all in the past now, John.
JM: Ohhhh – well the past has a funny way of coming back to us. Wht is it, now…
MG: …particularly in Ireland, yes.
JM: There’s a very famous saying:
May the Lord in His mercy be kind to Belfast To hell with the future and long live the past May God in His mercy be kind to Belfast…
but it repeats itself there. Thank you, Kathryn, for coming on.
KJ: Good talking to you, John, and good talking to you, Martin. Bye!
JM: (station identification) But Martin, one of the problems and Kathryn saying you know people should admit to what they were involved with – you can only admit to what you’re involved with if you win the revolutionary struggle that you were involved in. In the Twenty-Six Counties, after the 1916 Uprising and after 1921 RTÉ went out and recorded everyone about what their involvement was in the struggle and no one went to jail because they were in power, they were running the country just like the ANC. Had the ANC lost in South Africa believe you me there would have been no truth and reconciliation committee because the South African apartheid government would have arrested and charged any ANC member that was admitting to what was going on.
MG: John, as we said, Ivor Bell – look at what’s happened to him, look what happened after Brendan Hughes gave and interview and why should British troopers, who were never prosecuted, never had to face justice, never had to face arrests or charges the way Republicans did – why should they get a continuation of their de facto amnesty? (ends time stamp ~ 33:49)
Corey Kilgannon, co-host of WBAI’s Talk Back, writes about hero NYPD Officer Steven McDonald. His New York Times article is faithfully reproduced here.
Officer’s Funeral Recalls a Rougher New York, and One Man’s Forgiveness By COREY KILGANNONJAN. 13, 2017
For the past 31 years, Officer Steven McDonald served the New York City Police Department, even while not being able to walk a beat, make an arrest or fire a gun.
In July 1986, Officer McDonald was shot repeatedly at point-blank range by a teenager in Central Park. The episode came to symbolize a violent city plagued by a crack epidemic, rampant crime and racially infused deaths that commanded the news and made New York a tabloid city.
The shooting left Officer McDonald paralyzed from the neck down, but he promptly issued a remarkable public forgiveness of his attacker and used his renown as an opportunity to preach understanding and speak out against violence and intolerance.
He died on Tuesday at age 59, several days after a heart attack. At the officer’s funeral Mass on Friday in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that Officer McDonald began a mission based on a “belief we could heal the wounds of the past.”
Officer McDonald, Mr. de Blasio said, was “a living example of the things we aspire to be,” adding that “millions were moved by his example because he became the greatest embodiment of what it means to be a member of the New York Police Department.”
At the time of the shooting, Officer McDonald had been on the police force for less than two years. He never returned to active service, but over the next three decades he became more vital to the department by walking — or rather, rolling, in a wheelchair — an unconventional beat that saw him carry his message of absolution from high school students to the pope.
In this sense, his death came in the line of duty.
He had remained on the Police Department’s payroll as a first-grade detective and was a consistent presence at police functions, parades and sporting events.
Officer McDonald became not only one of the most revered figures in the Police Department’s history, but also a touchstone from a time when the city was struggling with soaring murder rates.
In 1986, the Police Department reported 1,582 murders — last year there were 335.
Yet even for that tumultuous time, the shooting of Officer McDonald was startling in its brazenness — a teenager callously opening fire on an officer in broad daylight. It drew more attention perhaps because Officer McDonald had the quintessential pedigree of a New York City cop: He was part of an Irish Catholic police family from Long Island, with a father and grandfather who both served on the city’s police force.
On Friday, the streets around St. Patrick’s were closed to traffic, as thousands of fellow officers mustered in groups on street corners, adjusted their uniforms, put their patrol caps on, finished their coffee and filed into the cathedral.
Seven members of the Police Department honor guard carried Officer McDonald’s coffin from Fifth Avenue into the enormous sanctuary. Then it was wheeled up the main aisle. Officer McDonald’s wife, Patti Ann, and their son, Conor, followed.
After them came a long line of friends, relatives and members of the department, including the commissioner, James P. O’Neill, as well as other elected officials and former commissioners and chiefs.
Rank-and-file officers — a sea of blue uniforms — filled the pews of St. Patrick’s, whose capacity is 2,200.
Near the altar was a sign made from flowers with the words “Blue Lives Matter.”
David Letterman, a friend and supporter of Officer McDonald’s, sat in a front pew, as did Mark Messier and Adam Graves, retired members of Officer McDonald’s beloved New York Rangers hockey team.
President-elect Donald J. Trump posted a Twitter message calling Officer McDonald a “real NYC hero.”
Officer McDonald was 29 and in his second year on the job that day in 1986 when he approached a group of teenagers in Central Park.
At the time, many New Yorkers considered Central Park a risky place to walk, especially its northern portions, where Officer McDonald was shot. Today, a mugging in the park makes headlines. The spot where the shooting took place now has a vegetarian food stand and footpaths favored by tourists on rented bikes and well-off couples pushing strollers.
Back then, one of the teenagers Officer McDonald approached was 15-year-old Shavod Jones, who had had a troubled upbringing in the Taft Houses, a housing project in East Harlem.
Mr. Jones was walking with two friends near Harlem Meer when he was stopped by Officer McDonald, who was investigating a spate of bicycle thefts. Mr. Jones pulled out a handgun and shot the officer three times.
Officer McDonald became the 12th city police officer to be shot in six months. More broadly, the shooting was sandwiched between some other high-profile episodes that convulsed the city in the 1980s.
Two years before the shooting, Bernard Goetz shot four unarmed black men on a subway train who he said were trying to rob him. Three years after the McDonald episode came the Central Park jogger case: Five minority teenagers were coerced into confessing to the brutal rape of a white woman jogging in Central Park, but were later vindicated after serving prison sentences.
Edward I. Koch was the mayor and racial tension and anti-police sentiment were in the air. The Rev. Al Sharpton regularly led marches protesting racially charged events such as the deaths precipitated by white mobs in Gravesend and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and Howard Beach, Queens.
Officer McDonald recovered to the point that he could use a motorized wheelchair and breathe with the help of a respirator. He traveled in a specially equipped van.
His son, Conor McDonald, was born several months after the shooting and is now a Police Department sergeant. When Conor was baptized in 1987, Officer McDonald asked his wife to read a statement declaring that he forgave his attacker and hoped that Mr. Jones could “find peace and purpose in his life.”
Speaking for many, Msgr. Seamus O’Boyle, a cousin of Ms. McDonald, said at the funeral on Friday, “And we all know how amazing that statement was, how important it was for the streets of this city.”
Mr. O’Neill called Officer McDonald “one of the most fearless cops to ever don a uniform” and reiterated the officer’s mantra that the only thing worse than taking a bullet to the spine would have been nurturing revenge in his heart.
Officer McDonald’s life was shaped by “three bullets and three words: I forgive him,” Mr. O’Neill said.
Mr. Graves told mourners that scores of current and retired Rangers called him, after hearing of Officer McDonald’s death.
“Steven McDonald meant more to the New York Rangers and our fans then we could ever mean to him,” said Mr. Graves, a left wing who retired in 2003.
Conor McDonald thanked Mr. Letterman, “who’s been by my dad’s side since Day 1,” and called his father “a real superhero.”
After the service, Officer McDonald’s coffin was carried out and put in a hearse, which began heading slowly down Fifth Avenue. Thousands of officers saluted and stood at attention as “Irish Soldier Boy,’’ performed by the Police Department’s Emerald Society pipe and drum band, reverberated in the street.
Correction: January 13, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the extent of Officer McDonald’s paralysis in one instance. He was a quadriplegic, not a paraplegic.
Martin Galvin (MG) speaks to award winning journalist, historian and author Ed Moloney (EM) via telephone who comments on Martin McGuinness’ health issues, the Stack case, the Sinn Féin response to the RHI (Renewable Heat Initiative) scandal and the impact of issues on the future of the Assembly and the Executive in The North of Ireland. (begins time stamp ~ 28:10)
MG: And with us on the line we have the journalist, formerly with the Irish Times, Sunday Tribune, Hibernian magazine – historian and author of books such as A Secret History of the IRA and Voices From the Grave. Ed, welcome back to Radio Free Éireann.
EM: Thank you, Martin, very nice to be back.
MG: Ed, John had tracked down – there werediscussions about Martin McGuinness’ medical condition and whether it would mean that he would be stepping down or deceasing his duties and again, we’re just covering this because it’s a news story. Everybody wishes him the best of health and recovery from any problems that he has. Why is it so important? Why is Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams, why are their continued leadership in Sinn Féin – why is that viewed as so important? Even now Martin McGuinness is in his late sixties. Gerry Adams is close to seventy years of age. What is the impact if they do – one or both – does step down?
EM: Well they’ve always been like the Siamese twins of the Provos for the last twenty years or so in the sense that it was a double act that was required to bring the IRA into the ceasefire situation and then into the peace process. And the reason for that was very simple. It was: Gerry Adams was, as most people know, a very senior figure in the IRA; at one stage he was Chief of Staff, he was Belfast Brigade Commander a couple of times at least, he was Adjutant General and various other very senior posts. But he never had the reputation of someone who went out with Active Service Units and pulled triggers or pressed buttons or whatever the IRA is required to do. He was very much a general who sat behind the lines and that’s very well known within the IRA and for that reason people within the IRA itself were always a little bit leery of his military reputation whereas Martin McGuinness has the name of someone who actually did go out on operations and, as they say, ‘did the business’. So when it came to selling the peace process strategy to the grassroots I don’t think Gerry Adams could have done that by himself because I don’t think the trust was there on the part of the rank-and-file, the activists, the people who were the foot soldiers of the IRA who looked down on Adams somewhat you know that he was – Okay, he was a bright guy and he was a clever strategist but he’d never done what the other guys had done whereas Martin McGuinness did. So the fact that Martin McGuinness appeared with Gerry Adams as sort of a double act in the peace process years – backing Adams, always seen in his company, supporting him, at one point telling journalists that Gerry Adams is someone who puts into words thoughts that he has but can’t himself put into words and very much that he admired Adams and so on and so forth but the combination of the two together was strong enough and persuasive enough to bring along sufficient number inside the IRA. So it’s very important for that strategy that the pair of them acted together in concert. If one of them goes, and the rumours are that he is very seriously ill and that if he’s as seriously ill as people say that may well precipitate his departure, it does a couple of things. First of all it ends that partnership and secondly it raises automatically questions about Gerry Adams’ own future. You know, once one partner goes what happens to the other one? It becomes much more a live issue, that: Will he go? Should he go? And as you know there’s a tremendous amount of pressure from the political establishment and the media establishment in The South, in the Republic, against Adams and they all want to see him go and you know that pressure could increase quite considerably if McGuinness decides to retire.
MG: Ed, just before we broke in December there was a major story that we had covered in The South. It was about a killing that occurred years ago of a guard at Portlaoise Prison, Brian Stack, and his sons had come to Gerry Adams, requested information. Adams had apparently given some information, or at least arranged for meetings with the IRA for them, and that is still having repercussions as people are saying he should do more, the sons of the killed Portlaoise officer are saying that he should do more. Other people are saying he should never have given – there should have never been an email that released or involved any names – names which were then brought up in Leinster House under privilege. Could you tell us about the importance of that?
EM: Well, it’s one of these situations which is a very difficult one. As you say, what happened was that Gerry Adams took the son, or the sons, of this prison officer, a guy called Stack, to meet the IRA and to be told by the IRA what the circumstances were of their father’s killing. And for many, many years they had declared that they knew nothing about the circumstances behind the man’s death. Then latterly have admitted that yes, it was one of their operations but it was not authorised. All of which, incidentally, I take with a quite a large pinch of salt – I’m not inclined to believe it – I think it was an authorised operation but they daren’t say it was an authorised operation because that breaks IRA rules which forbid actions against members of the southern security forces – the police, army, prison guards, etc. So it’s a very difficult one. Adams will argue that he was trying to get closure for the family and find out what happened. The family are saying: No, we want more than this. I don’t think they believe the story about it being an unauthorised operation either and they want Adams to name the IRA man that he took the two sons to meet which is of course is something that he’s not going to do and I don’t think can do and get away with it but the pressure is on him to do something and it’s coming from, not just from the family, but also from all the other usual political opponents of the Provos in The South.
EM: There is now a police investigation re-launched into Stack’s killing and where that leads will be very interesting indeed.
MG: Alright. I just want to go back to Martin McGuinness: Now, we’ve seen some confusion within Sinn Féin in The North that a party that is known just for being very disciplined, well-organised, that everybody’s ‘on message’. For example John talked briefly – and we’re not – we’re going to cover this story in future, we’re not going to go to it in detail today. Right now there is an issue, there was a renewable heat initiative some years ago under Arlene Foster. It turned out that you could actually make money per unit per heat – she presided over it. There’s a fortune going to be lost to The North, the government, because of it. There are calls for her to step down. Sinn Féin is the, actually the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) had made a motion of no-confidence in her. There’s a fight over whether there should be a public inquiry or what Sinn Féin’s posture should be. Now during the week some of the members of Sinn Féin, Declan Kearney and others, had argued that there has to be – Mary Lou McDonald – that there has to be a public inquiry. Other members of Sinn Féin said: No, it could be some kind of robust inquiry, not public, behind closed doors. There were actually statements pulled out whether it should be a public inquiry or not – pulled out of a press release and then put back into a press release from Declan Kearney – those types of things did not happen when, up until now, wouldn’t have happened I think if Martin McGuinness was fully at the helm. What do you think the impact is of him having any medical issues?
EM: Well I guess it probably doesn’t help that he’s not around or not functioning at a hundred percent because, as you say, there’s been a whole number of mistakes made but they all arise from I think a fundamental weakness in Sinn Féin’s position which is that the Assembly and the power-sharing government, the Good Friday Agreement institutions in other words, are really what the peace process is all about. They swapped the IRA’s armed struggle and they swapped quite a very important political belief such as the idea that the Unionists did not have the veto on Irish unity and that their consent was not required for Irish unity which has always been the rationale, indeed the raison d‘être, of the IRA and the armed struggle, they swapped all of those cardinal, defining aspects of their ideology in return for the power-sharing government and the power-sharing Assembly. And I think what the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) have discovered is that they daren’t let go of those and they daren’t be seen to abandon the power-sharing Assembly and the Executive because if they go then they have nothing to show for basically giving up their armed struggle and I think they’re taking advantage of that and this Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) is I think an example of that. And it’s an extraordinary situation if you think about it. The way that it works: These are pellet stoves which are very common in rural areas in the United States. I mean, we have a pellet stove up in upstate. And you buy these bags of pellets; they’re fairly cheap. They give off tremendous heat. They’re a bit awkward to fill up etc but they’re very efficient. But the way that they introduced this system in The North was that if for every dollar that you spent on a pellet, on a supply of pellets, you got a subsidy back from the government of one dollar sixty cents. This is an extraordinary money-making scheme which was only open, incidentally, to certain types of people. It wasn’t like open to you and me. It would be open to farmers and industrial people and stuff like that and they were – what they’ve been doing – is that they’ve filling their barns with these pellet stoves and making an absolute fortune in subsidies. I mean for every dollar of pellets that they burn they’re getting back sixty cents pure profit which is a great deal when you think about it for doing virtually nothing except warming up an empty barn. And this is all being paid for out of the Exchequer at a time when Sinn Féin and the other parties have all signed up to a whole series of austerity measures which are affecting working class people in Belfast – both Loyalist, Unionist, Nationalist and Republican – all being asked to make sacrifices and here this scheme, which has the taint of being made available more freely to supporters of the DUP than to anyone else, that’s existing and Sinn Féin is doing next to nothing about it. So there was a huge amount of anger in their own party’s ranks which I think has led to this confusion by the leadership, not helped by the fact that Martin McGuinness was not in fully functioning mode, and they’ve been all over the place quite literally. I mean I had a piece on my blog during the week about the number of flip-flops that they have performed – you know, on one day demanding a public inquiry – the next day saying sorry, that was a typo. We meant a robust inquiry rather than a public inquiry and so on and so forth. And it’s at that point where the credibility of the party and the credibility of its strategy is very much being tested here. How it’s all going to end up remains to be seen but my money very firmly would be on nothing happening that would threaten the institutions and that eventually a deal will be done which keeps the show running and preserves, more or less, the institutions as we have them and that the DUP will more or less get away, I reckon, with what they’ve done here because the alternative is to make a real principled issue out of it, push it to the breaking point and bring the whole edifice down and that, I don’t believe, Sinn Féin ever will do or want to do.
MG: Ed, this brings us to the central question: As you say, when armed struggle was given up in exchange for access to Stormont and other political concessions the whole idea, the idea behind the armed struggle or the raison d‘être of the armed struggle, the reason that there was a struggle for freedom in Ireland, the reason that there was some negotiations, the reason for Sinn Féin’s very existence is to get a united Ireland – is to end British rule. And it was said during the negotiations that by working with the DUP or working with the official Unionists, by Sinn Féin playing a part there – Unionists, they would build, gradually, goodwill with Unionists and Unionist somehow – through cross-border bodies, through working with Sinn Féin, Unionist voters would come to accept the idea of a united Ireland and as the Nationalist population or percentage of the population rose you’d ultimately have a Nationalist majority who wanted freedom for all Ireland. Now that has not happened. The latest statistics, there was a programme, The View, some time ago that said that eighty-eight percent of Protestants were firmly committed to staying within British rule. That only about half that number, forty-three percent, less than half that number, forty-three percent of Catholics wanted a united Ireland. The rest either were undecided or were content with British rule. It seems that there’s no real movement towards the ultimate goal. Why stay with a strategy that is not working to achieve what it was objected to achieve?
EM: I think really, basically, the answer to that is that they were militarily defeated when the peace process took off and that when the IRA called its ceasefire in 1994 it was from a position of extreme weakness. And my own conviction, and it’s not just fanciful speculation on my part – I’m basing this on some facts that I am aware of – is that the level of infiltration of the IRA by British intelligence forces by the time of the peace process was such that it became a legitimate question as to who was really running the show? Was it the IRA leadership? The Army Council? Or was it British intelligence manipulating things in the background? And effectively, eighty percent of their operations were being compromised. They were losing men and materials. The Eksund was lost in 1987 and with The Eksund wasthe last great military throw had been lost as well. They were going to launch this huge big Tet-style offensive with the idea of sickening British public opinion and encouraging the view that it was time to get out of this place because it’s such a mess it’s going to go on forever. Well, once The Eksund was betrayed – and The Eksund was betrayed. I mean there had to be at least two agents on the job there and very possibly more who knew about an operation that was kept highly secret for a long time and that demonstrated just how badly infiltrated the IRA had become. And one can ask all sorts of questions about the behaviour of the Internal Security Unit – why the same people stayed in those spots for so long and so on and so forth. But the fact remains, whatever the truth behind all that speculation is, and my view is that militarily they were, essentially, defeated and they were operating from a position of weakness really all the way through the peace process negotiations.
MG: Alright. But even if that is correct, John brought up at the beginning of the programme that at the end of the ’50’s campaign, which was certainly militarily defeated – was going nowhere. They dumped arms but they were certainly committed to try and find a strategy that would lead to a united Ireland. They were not going to go to something that was counter-productive, that was going to never lead to a united Ireland. It seems as if being in Stormont – Arlene Foster has talked about the next century or the second century of Northern Ireland – it seems as if the position of support for British rule and the Unionists – Arlene Foster can put Martin McGuinness in his place, that’s what it seems. They don’t compromise, the British don’t have to do anything, they wait for Arlene Foster to say: Nothing on legacy, nothing on this, nothing on that. And when they do the hard bargaining and pull the concessions out of Sinn Féin the British can just simply just sit back and take advantage of this and pretend to be neutral and not to care while all the time they’re having their will done and there’s no growing movement/popular support for a united Ireland. It seems the statistics are going further and further back. You don’t have any immediate prospect of getting a border poll and ….
EM: …winning it…
MG: Right! If you lose it then you can’t even bring it up for another seven years and in the Twenty-Six Counties people say: Well, don’t even talk to us. You know, have to vote on it ‘up there’ first.
EM: The first point to make, Martin, in relation to all of that is that there’s a fundamental basic different between what happened at the end of the 1956-62 IRA campaign and what happened at the end of the Provos’ war. The 1956-62 campaign ended with them just saying: Alright, we’re stopping for the time being,dump arms, another day will come and we’ll wait for that day. This ending of an IRA phase is unprecedented in Republican history in the sense that never before had a leadership burned its ideological bridges behind it as it went into a peaceful situation which is what happened with the Provos. They burned their own ideology in terms of the bridges – once they crossed those bridges they burned the bridges behind them and they couldn’t return. And I’m thinking there in terms of accepting the idea of Unionist consent which is fundamental to Republican ideology. You know, the whole basis of the IRA was you know, the First Dáil and the Second Dáil, both of which were all-Ireland elections which returned a majority in favour of Sinn Féin therefore the enforcement of partition was undemocratic and anti-democratic and was against the will of the Irish people as a whole, etc etc all of that philosophy and ideology was thrown out when they went into the peace process and that is the major difference. And that is why – I mean it’s rather like the Berlin wall coming down in terms of the effect that it had on Communist ideology in eastern Europe – you know, once they had, once the former communists had become capitalists as it were there was no going back. And in a sense the Provos have done something very similar to that with the peace process. They have essentially accepted the constitutional nationalist approach to the border and to partition which means that we need to win over the Unionists to the notion of Irish unity, we cannot try to militarily expel the British or anything like that because we’re now committed to peaceful quote ‘democratic’ means. And that is the difference between 1956-1962 so the war is over and there’s no getting away from that and it’s over because, not just they lost militarily, but also that they have ditched the ideology and philosophy behind what used to be armed Republicanism.
MG: But Ed, what they did say was that we will get a united Ireland – gradually you’re going to get a Nationalist majority even within The Six Countries, and we’ll gradually, by showing how we can participate, work with Unionists, that we’re going to build goodwill. We’ll do confidence builders. We’ll do concessions. They’ll work with us. They’ll get used to seeing us and that gradually enough Unionist, enough Nationalist population, enough Unionists will come over and support a united Ireland and we’ll get a united Ireland that way. That was the argument that was marketed here. The opposite is happening. The strength of Unionism within the Nationalist community seems to be growing and as a result of this strategy and the number of the Protestant community, in religious terms, who support British rule seems to be as strong as ever before. So even if you say we’re committed now to a political strategy, even if you say we’re going to do this by getting a majority for a united Ireland within the Six Counties and then merge with the Twenty-Six Counties, if they were saying, on that basis, our ultimate goal remains the same as that of constitutional nationalism: a united Ireland – only we want to do it by different means – we’ll recognise the Unionist border, we’ll recognise Unionist veto, as you say, that there has to be Unionist support in the Six Counties – on that basis though, the strategy seems to be going in exactly the wrong direction. Why stay with a political strategy that seems to be counter-productive, which seems to be damaging your ultimate objective, which seems to be strengthening the hand of British rule and getting to Arlene Foster’s goal that there should be another century, a second century, of Northern Ireland and perhaps more beyond that rather than pursue something that’s going to do what they said they were going to do – achieve a united Ireland – even if peacefully, even if politically, even if it required a majority in the Six Counties to do it?
EM: Well, the answer to that is very simple, Martin: They’ve got no where else to go. They can’t go back to war. They’re old men now, a lot of them, to begin with. The atmosphere has changed; the tolerance for violence I think is much less than it used to be but also they have made all of these ideological concessions. They cannot, without like being consigning themselves into an utter political wilderness, they cannot go back on all of these great pledges that they’ve made about accepting the Principle of Consent which is at the heart of the peace process and the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. It’s the first thing that Tony Blair said when he came out of the negotiating room, chambers, when they had reached agreement. He said: This is historic because of this reason: Republicans have accepted the Principle of Consent – that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, ie, the Unionists in practice. And he recognised the importance of it. And that’s what the peace process was all about. It was to get to a point where the Provos accepted this doctrine. They did so and to go back on that and say: Actually, we’ve changed our mind. What are they going to then do? Re-start the war? They’re in no position to re-start any war at all. And therefore, that is the point I was making at the beginning is that they’ve really got no where else to go except the Assembly and the Executive and therefore they will keep it going and therefore the DUP can treat them, quite literally, with contempt knowing that, at the end of the day, they’re not going to bring the house down on themselves.
MG: Well on that depressing note you can see that even that there is a One Ireland One Vote campaign movement of the 1916 Societies in Ireland which says that all the people of Ireland, those in Dublin and Donegal should vote alongside those in Doire, and they should have an equal say about the freedom of their country or the future of their country – you don’t even see that being pushed by Sinn Féin at this time – something that could lead, change the landscape and start leading us back to a united Ireland. Alright, Ed…
EM: …I can give you one more piece of good news, though, which is Arsenal are being beaten in the FA Cup and that brings cheer to everyone I think.
MG: Well I don’t know. I’d be more interested in the Giants and Packer game tomorrow. I’m a Jet fan so I don’t even get cheered from that so. Alright, Ed, I want to thank you for being with us and going through some – we wanted to cover some more issues but I think you’ve gotten to the heart of what the real, crucial issues are in The North of Ireland and I appreciate that very much.
EM: No problem, Martin. Thank you now. Bye-bye. (ends time stamp ~55:36)
John McDonagh (John) and Martin Galvin (Martin) speak to Doire Republican and ‘hooded man’ Mickey Donnelly (Mickey) via telephone from Doire about Martin McGuinness’ health. (begins time stamp ~14:55)
John: He’s been a frequent guest over the years on WBAI at Radio Free Éireann. Mickey Donnelly is from Doire. During the ’70’s he was interned and he became known as one of the ‘hooded men’ who was selected out for special torture or I forget what we called in this country – ‘enhancement’, and he was held for almost seven days with a hood over his head, with water boarding, with sound torture and his case has been dragging on through the court system. And there’s a little irony that’s going on right now: The case has been taken to Brussels in Europe and now with Britain pulling out of the European Union it’ll be very interesting to see if the case comes down in his favour – that he was tortured – what effect that might have on the British government who are getting out of the European Union. But Mickey, I was explaining at the beginning of the show that Gerry Adams, who not unlike Robert Mugabe or even Fidel Castro, become the head of a political party and believe that they cannot leave because they are the head of the political party. You have the same thing in your city in Doire. You have Martin McGuinness who just believes he is the only one in Doire that can administer British rule in Ireland at Stormont and even though you have heard through reliable sources that he’s very sick, they’re calling for Arlene Foster to step down, the Northern Ireland – the head of Northern Ireland, that he’s not stepping down, even though he’s sick. He’s such an ego maniacal maniac like Adams, that he has to stay in power.
Now what have you heard about your good friend, Martin McGuinness, and I’d like to let everyone know that Martin McGuiness was a member of the IRA and at one stage, when Mickey Donnelly was critical of the Irish peace process, Martin McGuinness was responsible for sending some people from the IRA to his house with studded baseball bats and almost beat him and his wife to death and if it wasn’t for Mickey and his son fighting off the invaders he definitely would have been beaten to death. Mickey…
Martin: …John, I just want to say: We’re going to Mickey Donnelly right now in Doire. He has an update on Martin McGuinness’ medical condition. And then we’re going to go to the author, journalist and historian, Ed Moloney – he’s going to talk about the political implications for Sinn Féin and then he’s going to talk about some of the other issues that have occurred in the past month since we’ve been on. Alright John, go to Mickey Donnelly in Doire who has some revelations about what Martin McGuinness’ medical conditions really are.
John: Yeah Mickey, maybe you could…
Audio: Song, Back Home in Derry, plays.
Martin: Alright John, we had a little of confusion – I had told our engineer we were going to play a song first and then go to Mickey Donnelly. I know you’re up in Boston, you thought we had him on the air. We now do have our first guest. John had heard, I had heard, there have been no revelations that have been revealed, that Martin McGuinness was ill. Arlene Foster has referred to it, not very sympathetically, Gerry Adams referred to it and people have asked us, Radio Free Éireann, what the conditions are and I know, John, you’ve lined up our first guest that has some information and revelations about it to talk about Martin McGuinness. John, go ahead.
John: Yeah well Mickey, I just wanted to ask you – we have a bizarre situation of Gerry Adams, the head of his cult over in Ireland for the past thirty or forty years, will not step down to allow anyone else in there, but you have someone who’s administering British rule in Ireland who will not tell anyone what his medical conditions are or what’s happening and he won’t step down but yet he wants other people to step down. And I spoke to you during the week and do you have the latest update on his medical condition as a public elected official but he doesn’t want anyone to know?
Mickey: Yeah, they’re keeping it a big secret and refusing to talk about it. He put out first that he had a minor heart problem and there was a wee bit of truth in that because he had to have pacemaker about roughly a month ago, five weeks ago, installed but we do know he has a form of cancer and he’s not looking too well under it and he’s keeping out of the limelight and he’s not appearing in Stormont. He only went up there for two quite important meetings but even when he comes out afterward he doesn’t talk to the press. He hasn’t spoken to anybody since so he tries – it’s a wee bit – when he comes out with the rest of the Shinners gathered around him and they go into a huddle and escort him away. So the last meeting they had, they were interviewing another Shinner and so whadyacall it, who hadn’t even taken part in the meeting, so he became a spokesman for McGuinness and the BBC said Mr. McGuinness, because of his ongoing health problems, is about half-way to Doire now so – a bit of a j0ke.
John: Yeah, but Mickey what is it that he cannot give out his medical condition? I mean, public figures get sick all the time. Why is it, is he that important to administering British rule in Ireland that you can’t get a medical update on a publicly elected official?
Mickey: Everybody thinks Stormont’s on its last legs and is about to fold and they don’t want to do anything at all to topple it. They don’t want to remove Arlene Foster, for all her crookedness, and they don’t want – I mean McGuinness apparently is hardly fit to walk the length of himself. But no, they’re going to keep him there until he passes out, probably. And someone tells me…
John: …And then you know yourself, Mickey, in Doire – there’s plenty of people in Doire there that’ll administer British rule on his behalf. So it’s not for the lack of finding people to do it.
Mickey: Yeah, I don’t think it’ll be a Doire person this time. It’ll be whadaya call – aw, I forget her name now, this one. She’s in charge of the health service and making a disaster of a job of it. I mean locally here, I think McGuinness is getting a lot better treatment than most all the people in Doire. The health thing is pretty grim. I know personally of an unfortunate lady who had cancer getting treatment – or trying to get treatment – over Christmas and she only just saw the consultant the day before yesterday and she had been in the hospital…
John: …And Mickey, I just want to give about your history with Martin McGuinness – you’ve been on this show and you have apologised to the American people that you were the one responsible for bringing Martin McGuinness into the IRA.
Mickey: Yeah. Yep. I was desperate for recruits and unfortunately I made that blunder. It wasn’t the only one – there were a couple of mistakes you know – but he was by far the biggest. Well hopefully he won’t be about much longer…
John: … It’s just his own re-writing of history because he said he left the IRA in 19…
Mickey: …Let it be known – tell President Trump don’t bother inviting him to the the White House on Saint Patrick’s Day – he probably won’t be about.
Martin: Well we don’t want to wish anybody bad health or ill health or anything, Mickey. Let’s clear that up. We hope everybody – that he recovers and certainly we are going to go into the implications if he does step down. He has talked about retiring and we don’t want to see anybody ill. It’s just a matter of the fact that because he has such an important position in The North of Ireland that his medical condition becomes newsworthy for this programme. Okay. John, go ahead.
John: No, I…
Mickey: He was almost done there because in the last election in Doire he only got in on the seventh count. He scraped in, just made it. So I think he’d have been out one way or the other anyway.
Mickey: His day is coming.
John: And Mickey get on the record about his time in the IRA. He claimed – well Adams claims he was never been in the IRA – but Martin McGuinness has claimed that he left the IRA in 1976.
Mickey: ’74 – he claimed.
John: Oh, even earlier.
Mickey: Yeah. I got out of jail in 1975 and he was in it then. He claimed he left shortly after – he actually claimed he left shortly after Bloody Sunday, ’72.
John: Yeah. Well Mickey, any other news? And what’s your assessment of the Republican Movement now, or what’s left of it in the Six Counties, with all the fragmentation that’s going on? And is there any Republican resistance to Sinn Féin as a political party?
Mickey: I think you’re going – the thing took time and there was a lot of mistakes made and a lot of different wee sort of groups come along and it was actually the natural run of things – it wasn’t so bad. Martin’s probably familiar with some of the – you know quite familiar with some of the groups. But they never were really going anywhere but they were keeping the candle lit. And it’s one of these things that – I was criticised there a lot of years ago by people that you know well, John. I suggested people stop what they were doing, sit back and think, organise for three or four years- ach, no! I got accused then – Oh, Mickey wants to call the war off, you know? Well that’s all another matter but I think that’s happening now. People are reorganising, there’s a good structure going and I do think it’s, for the first time in say ten-fifteen years, I do see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
John: And how do you think about what Eamonn McCann and the People Before Profit – do you see them, if there is a snap election coming up, will they be making any inroads whether in either Doire or Belfast?
Mickey: They haven’t got a great sort of working machine and I think the boost in Doire was from some of the Bloody Sunday people who worked very well on their behalf. They need to get out and at it. They’ve quite a good wee organisation in Belfast and they could well – I don’t see much scope in Doire but you never know, they might do better but I couldn’t see them electing two people in Doire but they certainly might add another one to Belfast.
John: Yeah. Well listen, Mickey…
Mickey: …Belfast really including the Shinner thing, you know?
John: …thanks for coming on and giving us that. And Martin, I’ll bail out now with Mickey because now Ed Moloney will give us more of the broader prospect of what it means – Arlene Foster will step down or McGuinness will be stepping down for medical reasons – or what will be the political future in 2017. (ends time stamp ~ 26:55)